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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 45-50

Screening of psychoactive components in fresh khat using direct analysis in real time-time of flight-mass spectrometry

1 Department of Forensic Science, King Fahd Security College, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Chemistry, College of Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
3 Center of Poison Control and Forensic Chemistry, College of Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
4 Department of Ministry of Health, Central Laboratory, College of Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Abdulrhman M Dhabbah
Department of Forensic Science, King Fahd Security College, Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/sjfms.sjfms_2_19

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Background: Khat (Catha edulis Forsk) is a shrub endemic to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula that is widely consumed for its psychoactive properties. Due to the increase of illicit drugs consumption in the world, there is a need for fast investigation techniques in order to rapidly characterize the huge number of seized samples. In the recent years, direct analysis in real-time mass spectrometry (DART-MS) proved to be a useful and convenient method which allows recording mass spectra of various samples without any preparation. Objectives: The present work describes a convenient procedure for rapid characterization of fresh Khat samples by identification of cathinone and cathine which are the most active constituents in different parts of the plant. Materials and Methods: A fresh sample of C. edulis was cut into small pieces with separation of leaves and stems; each part was investigated using DART-time-of-flight (ToF)-MS. The fresh samples were submitted to a stream of hot helium as vaporization and ionization gas, without any extraction or prior treatment. Results: The obtained spectra showed many peaks corresponding to the mass range from 100 to 600 Da. Cathinone and cathine which are known to be the main psychoactive components in C. edulis were found in all parts of the fresh samples; their protonated peaks appeared at 150 and 152 Da, respectively. The peak intensity of these two characteristic alkaloids was notably different between leaves and stems; it roughly decreased from lower to upper leaves, while their highest content was obtained in the upper stem. Conclusion: The present work showed that DART-ToF-MS is a powerful tool for fast investigation of real samples, particularly in the field of forensic sciences.

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