Mitragynine is a novel psychoactive substance (NPS) that has emerged as a designer opioid. Also known as kratom, it possesses both stimulant-like and sedative effects due to dual-binding of α-adrenergic and μ-opioid receptors. This herbal remedy is readily available online and can cause adverse effects including tachycardia, agitation, tremors, hallucination and death. In a recent article published in Journal of Analytical Toxicology by Trista H. Wright, UCT’s flagship sorbent, Clean Screen® DAU, was employed to extract the drug from whole blood. The author reports that a suspect in a driving under the influence case admitted to using Mitragynine to a drug recognition expert (DRE) officer.

Mitragynine is a primary indole alkaloid and is used in traditional medicine in Southeast Asia. It is marketed as an alternative medicine, as a stimulant, sedative, and “legal opioid” used to treat withdrawal symptoms. Originating from the evergreen tree, Mitragyna speciosa, the leaves have been ground and ingested for centuries to increase productivity among workers. At lower doses (1–5 g), kratom can produce stimulating effects, and “opioid-like” effects at higher doses (5–15 g). The euphoric effects occur within a few minutes after chewing the leaves and can last up to six hours.

An alkaline drug screen identified mitragynine in a 37- year-old female driver who was suspected of driving under the influence after nearly striking an oncoming vehicle. A blood amphetamine concentration was quantified at 0.052 mg/L and mitragynine and citalopram were reported qualitatively.

Alkaline drugs were extracted by Clean Screen® DAU SPE and identified by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.  The columns were conditioned with 3 mL hexane, 3 mL methanol, 3 mL deionized water, and 1 mL phosphate buffer (pH 6).  Following sample addition, columns were washed with two 3 mL water washes, 2 mL 1 M acetic acid and 3 mL methanol. The elution solvent was methylene chloride/isopropanol/ammonium hydroxide (78:20:2).  The eluent was evaporated at 50°C under nitrogen and samples were reconstituted with 50 μL of toluene/hexane/isoamyl alcohol

This article demonstrates the power and efficiency of Clean Screen® DAU in extracting and analyzing NPS drugs such as Mitragynine in whole blood and shows why forensic toxicologists working with NPS compounds turn to UCT for the finest of sorbents. Click here for more information on UCT’s DAU columns.