Cocaine abuse is widespread all over the world, and is performed generally by sniffing, injecting or smoking cocaine or crack. The distinction between the recreational use of cocaine from the practice of the so called ‘‘coqueo’’ is still an issue in those countries where this habit is diffused and where it is not considered an addiction, by this reason is necessary to develop a method for to distinguish the coca chewers and cocaine abusers. The use of an unique marker to distinguish between cocaine abuse and chewing of coca leaves is of fundamental importance in those countries where this habit is diffused. Certain alkaloids of the leaves of Erythroxylum coca are lost during the process of extraction/purification of cocaine and it is not possible to find them neither in seizures of chlorhidrate of cocaine nor urine samples of cocaine abusers. These markers are the hygrine and cuscohygrine that are present in the leaves of E. coca. A fast GC/MS method involving a liquid:liquid extraction procedure with tertbutylmethylether (TBME) is proposed for the determination of some alkaloids in cocaine leaves, cocaine seizures and biological samples. All specimens were alkalinized to pH 9 with a carbonate/bicarbonate buffer and then extracted with TBME. The analysis was carry out by GC/MS with electron impact at 70 eV and in full scan mode. The results demonstrate that hygrine and cuscohygrine are not found neither in the urine of cocaine abusers nor in cocaine seizures. For this reason this compounds could be considered as markers of coca chewing. This developed method permits to distinguish coca chewing from cocaine abuse in workplace drug testing through the analysis of urine samples.
- Cocaine markers
- coca chewing