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Chemical profiling of waste from clandestine synthetic drug production

Research project DR/31 (Research action DR)


Persons :

  • Prof. dr.  TYTGAT Jan - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/10/2006-31/12/2007
  • Prof. dr.  DEHAEN Wim - Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (K.U.Leuven)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/10/2006-31/12/2007

Description :

The large profits that can be realized by the trading of clandestine drugs have attracted the attention of organized crime and caused its proliferation in the domain. Both national and international judicial and police intelligence departments are confronted with this problem and are trying to find a fitting answer to the issue, sometimes with the assistance of science. More specific for the clandestine synthesis of so-called designer drugs, this is usually translated as the chemical profiling of confiscated drugs, synthetic precursors and chemical waste. Such analyses may assist law enforcement agencies to interconnect drugs sold on the street with manufacturing and dumping sites, and hence may result in the dismantlement of a criminal organization.

The current project attempts to find reliable chemical parameters that allow interconnection of chemical ditching sites, and/or permit to interlink dump sites with underground drug laboratories. Research will be focused on MDMA and amphetamine, the two most popular clandestine designer drugs in Belgium, but can be expanded to other substances (e.g. methamphetamine, 4-methoxyamphetamine) when there are indications for their production.

Most of the confiscated amphetamine has been manufactured via the Leuckart reductive amination, while MDMA is often synthesized using PtO2-catalyzed reductive amination or the so-called “cold method” with NaBH4. Accordingly, synthesis impurities derived from these synthesis routes will be emphasized. Additionally, synthetic contaminants from other routes or different designer drugs may be considered.

The project is subdivided into two segments, viz. (a) the chemical analysis of samples within the relevance of the project, and (b) research of the genesis of certain synthesis impurities. The two research aspects stand interdependent, not independent.
Three mass spectrometric techniques will be applied to analyze dumped synthesis waste, viz. GC-MS, LC-MS and ICP-MS. Focus will be put on GC-MS-based techniques (e.g. GC-MS coupled to HS-SPME), while a supporting role is assigned to LC-MS. In addition, ICP-MS will be used to analyze the elemental composition of soils contaminated with synthesis waste. Consequently, GC-MS and LC-MS can be applied to obtain organic profiles while an inorganic profile can be realized via ICP-MS.
NMR (600 MHz), IR, GC-MS and preparative HPLC will support the research and guarantee an unequivocal structural characterization of new synthesis impurities that find applicability as specific markers in the chemical profiling of clandestine waste dumps. These impurities may be formed during the synthesis or the ditching process. Furthermore, impurity libraries will be designed and synthesized via combinatorial chemistry. By using this new and innovative method, we try to achieve a higher efficiency than conventional techniques allow and attempt to find a way that enables us to anticipate on changes in the modus operandi of clandestine drug manufacturing sites. This approach allows a high degree of automatization.

The results of the project will be compiled in a database that should allow a certain degree of laboratory automatization, and will also permit comparative studies with national and international laboratories. Furthermore, the scientific results will be critically analyzed by a jurist, who will give an advice to the justice department on the judicial significance of the chemical profiling of clandestinely produced and dumped synthesis waste.


Documentation :

Chemische Profilering van afvalstoffen uit de clandestiene productie van drugs : samenvatting    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2008 (SP1914)
[To download

Caractérisation chimique de la décharge de la fabrication clandestine des drogues synthétiques : résumé    Bruxelles : Politique scientifique fédérale, 2008 (SP1915)
[To download

Chemical profiling of waste from clandestine synthetic drug production : summary    Brussels : Belgian Science Policy, 2008 (SP1916)
[To download

Chemische profilering van afvalstoffen uit de clandestiene productie van drugs : eindrapport    Brussel : Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid, 2008 (SP1920)
[To download

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