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Enhancement of Microcrystalline Identification of γ-Hydroxybutyrate

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An enhancement of the microcrystalline test for the detection of γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) is described. The original test used a silver/copper reagent which consisted of 0.1 g of silver nitrate and 0.1 g of copper nitrate in 10 mL water. The enhanced test utilizes lanthanum nitrate in place of copper nitrate. A detection limit of 0.5 mg/mL was achieved and the visual discrimination was improved because of larger sized crystals. Transient crystals were observed between 0.1 and 0.4 mg/mL. Silver nitrate alone appeared to be suitable for GHB detection but was not specific as other hydroxyl acids, such as glycolic acid, produced a similar crystal pattern. Tests conducted on chemical precursors of GHB and substances with similar biological activity highlight the specificity of the enhanced test. The reagent is therefore selective and sensitive for GHB in aqueous solutions. However, in beverage testing, crystal formation appeared to be inhibited for some drinks. Citric acid was identified as a possible interference depending on its concentration relative to GHB.
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Keywords: date rape drug; forensic science; lanthanum nitrate; microcrystalline test; silver nitrate; γ-hydroxybutyrate

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Lincoln, Department of Forensic and Biomedical Sciences, Brayford Pool, Lincoln, LN6 7TS, UK. 2: Nottingham Trent University, School of Biomedical and Natural Sciences, Clifton Lane, Nottingham, NG11 8NS, UK

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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