A Fatal Overdose of Cocaine Associated with Coingestion of Marijuana, Buprenorphine, and Fluoxetine. Body Fluid and Tissue Distribution of Cocaine and Its Metabolites Determined by Hydrophilic Interaction Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (HILIC-MS)

Giroud, Christian ; Michaud, Katarzyna ; Sporkert, Frank ; Eap, Chin ; Augsburger, Marc ; Cardinal, Pascal ; Mangin, Patrice

In: Journal of Analytical Toxicology, 2004, vol. 28, no. 6, p. 464-474

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    Chromatographic separation of highly polar basic drugs with ideal ionspray mass spectrometry volatile mobile phases is a difficult challenge. A new quantification procedure was developed using hydrophilic interaction chromatography-mass spectrometry with turbo-ionspray ionization in the positive mode. After addition of deuterated internal standards and simple clean-up liquid extraction, the dried extracts were reconstituted in 500 μL pure acetonitrile and 5 μL was directly injected onto a Waters Atlantis™ HILIC 150- × 2.1-mm, 3-μm column. Chromatographic separations of cocaine, seven metabolites, and anhydroecgonine were obtained by linear gradient-elution with decreasing high concentrations of acetonitrile (80-56% in 18 min). This high proportion of organic solvent makes it easier to be coupled with MS. The eluent was buffered with 2mM ammonium acetate at pH 4.5. Except for m-hydroxy-benzoylecgonine, the within-day and between-day precisions at 20, 100, and 500 ng/mL were below 7 and 19.1%, respectively. Accuracy was also below ± 13.5% at all tested concentrations. The limit of quantification was 5 ng/mL (%Diff < 16.1, %RSD < 4.3) and the limit of detection below 0.5 ng/mL. This method was successfully applied to a fatal overdose. In Switzerland, cocaine abuse has dramatically increased in the last few years. A 45-year-old man, a known HIV-positive drug user, was found dead at home. According to relatives, cocaine was self-injected about 10 times during the evening before death. A low amount of cocaine (0.45 mg) was detected in the bloody fluid taken from a syringe discovered near the corpse. Besides injection marks, no significant lesions were detected during the forensic autopsy. Toxicological investigations showed high cocaine concentrations in all body fluids and tissues. The peripheral blood concentrations of cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and methylecgonine were 5.0, 10.4, and 4.1 mg/L, respectively. The brain concentrations of cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and methylecgonine were 21.2, 3.8, and 3.3 mg/kg, respectively. The highest concentrations of norcocaine (about 1 mg/L) were measured in bile and urine. Very high levels of cocaine were determined in hair (160 ng/mg), indicating chronic cocaine use. A low concentration of anhydroecgonine methylester was also found in urine (0.65 mg/L) suggesting recent cocaine inhalation. Therapeutic blood concentrations of fluoxetine (0.15 mg/L) and buprenorphine (0.1 μg/L) were also discovered. A relatively high concentration of Δ9-THC was measured both in peripheral blood (8.2 μg/L) and brain cortex (13.5 μg/kg), suggesting that the victim was under the influence of cannabis at the time of death. In addition, fluoxetine might have enhanced the toxic effects of cocaine because of its weak pro-arrhythmogenic properties. Likewise, combination of cannabinoids and cocaine might have increase detrimental cardiovascular effects. Altogether, these results indicate a lethal cocaine overdose with a minor contribution of fluoxetine and cannabinoids