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Tracking the distribution of "ecstasy" tablets by Raman composition profiling: A large scale feasibility study

Bell, S.E.J., Barrett, L.J., Burns, D.T., Dennis, A.C. and Speers, S.J.ORCID: 0000-0003-2027-2241 (2003) Tracking the distribution of "ecstasy" tablets by Raman composition profiling: A large scale feasibility study. The Analyst, 128 (11). pp. 1331-1335.

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Here we report the results of the largest study yet carried out on composition profiling of seized "ecstasy" tablets by Raman spectroscopy. Approximately 1500 tablets from different seizures in N. Ireland were analysed and even though practically all the tablets contained MDMA as active constituent, there were very significant differences in their Raman spectra, which were due to variations in both the nature and concentration of the excipients used and/or the degree of hydration of the MDMA. The ratios of the peak heights of the prominent drug bands at 810 cm−1 and 716 cm−1 (which vary with hydration state of the drug), and the drug band at 810 cm−1 against the largest clearly discernible excipient band in the spectrum were measured for all the samples. It was found that there was sufficient variation in composition in the general sample population to make any matches between batches of tablets taken from different seizures significant, rather than the result of random chance. Despite the large number of different batches of tablets examined in this study, only two examples of indistinguishable sets of tablets were found and in only one of these had the two batches of tablets been seized at different times. Finally, the fact that there are many examples of batches of tablets (particularly in different batches taken from single seizures) in which the differences between each set are sufficiently small that they appear to arise only from random variations within a standard manufacturing method implies that, with more extensive data, it may be possible to recognize the "signature" of tablets prepared by major manufacturers.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: The Royal Society of Chemistry
Copyright: © The Royal Society of Chemistry 2003
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