Distinction among eight opiate drugs in urine by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry

William Nowatzke, Jianbo Zeng, Al Saunders, Alan Bohrer, John Koenig, John Turk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Opiates are commonly abused substances, and forensic urine drug-testing for them requires gas chromatographic-mass spectrometric (GC-MS) confirmation. There are also medical reasons to test urine for opiates, and confirmation procedures other than GC-MS are often used for medical drug-testing. A thin-layer chromatographic (TLC) method distinguishes morphine, acetylmorphine, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, codeine, dihydrocodeine, hydrocodone, and oxycodone in clinical specimens. In certain clinical circumstances, GC-MS confirmation is requested for opiates identified by TLC, but, to our knowledge, no previous report examines all of the above opiates in a single GC-MS procedure. We find that they can be distinguished by GC-MS analyses of trimethylsilyl (TMS) ether derivatives, and identities of 6-keto opiates can be further confirmed by GC-MS analysis of methoxime (MO)-TMS derivatives. Inclusion of deuterium-labeled internal standards permits identification of the opiates in urine at concentrations below the TLC cutoff level of 600 ng/ml, and the GC-MS assay is linear over a concentration range that spans that level. This GC-MS procedure has proved useful as a third-stage identification step in a medical drug-testing sequence involving prior immunoassay and TLC. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)815-828
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1999


  • Acetylmorphine
  • Codeine
  • Dihydrocodeine
  • Hydrocodone
  • Hydromorphone
  • Medical drug-testing
  • Morphine
  • Oxycodone
  • Oxymorphone


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