Human urinary metabolic patterns of the designer benzodiazepines flubromazolam and pyrazolam studied by liquid chromatography–high resolution mass spectrometry

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EarlyView Article

  • Published: Aug 29, 2017
  • Author: Madeleine Pettersson Bergstrand, Markus R. Meyer, Olof Beck, Anders Helander


Over the past ~8 years, hundreds of unregulated new psychoactive substances (NPS) of various chemical categories have been introduced as recreational drugs through mainly open online trade. This study was performed to further investigate the human metabolic pattern of the NPS, or designer benzodiazepines flubromazolam and pyrazolam, and to propose analytical targets for urine drug testing of these substances. The urine samples originated from patient samples confirmed by liquid chromatography–high‐resolution tandem mass spectrometry (LC–HRMS/MS) analysis to contain flubromazolam or pyrazolam. The LC–HRMS/MS system consisted of a YMC‐UltraHT Hydrosphere C18 column (YMC, Dinslaken, Germany) coupled to a Thermo Scientific (Waltham, MA, USA) Q Exactive Orbitrap MS operating in positive electrospray mode. The samples were analyzed both with and without enzymatic hydrolysis using β‐glucuronidase. Besides the parent compounds, the main urinary excretion products were parent glucuronides, mono‐hydroxy metabolites, and mono‐hydroxy glucuronides. In samples prepared without hydrolysis, the most common flubromazolam metabolites were 1 of the mono‐hydroxy glucuronides and 1 of the parent glucuronides. For pyrazolam, a parent glucuronide was the most common metabolite. These 3 metabolites were detected in all samples and were considered the primary targets for urine drug testing and confirmation of intake. After enzymatic hydrolysis of the urine samples, a 2–19‐fold increase in the concentration of flubromazolam was found, highlighting the value of hydrolysis for this analyte. With hydrolysis, the flubromazolam hydroxy metabolites should be used as target metabolites.

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