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Characterisation of illicit ecstasy and diazepam tablets by colorant identification.

Sharrenbroch, L.; Tough, A.; Matthews, K.H.


L. Sharrenbroch

A. Tough


Ecstasy and diazepam are two commonly abused drugs with a high potential for dependence. They are typically available as oral tablets that contain both the drug and other bulk components (excipients). Compositional knowledge of individual tablets offers a method of identification that can be used for profiling. Established analytical methods such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) are used to verify the nature and quantity of active components while differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) has proved valuable in providing unique 'thermal signatures' for the bulk composition. Analysis of the colorants commonly used in tablet aesthetics, however, has received very little attention so the aim of this work was to develop and validate such a method. HPLC-DAD was successfully used to characterise thirteen common colorants from five key classes of dyestuffs. Calibration data (R2 - 0.999) was used to identify and quantify specific colorants in 63 out of 64 individual tablet cases with >98% success.


SHARRENBROCH, L., TOUGH, A. and MATTHEWS, K.H. 2018. Characterisation of illicit ecstasy and diazepam tablets by colorant identification. Analytical methods [online], 10(17), pages 2048-2055. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 14, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 24, 2018
Publication Date May 7, 2018
Deposit Date May 4, 2018
Publicly Available Date Apr 25, 2019
Journal Analytical methods
Print ISSN 1759-9660
Electronic ISSN 1759-9679
Publisher Royal Society of Chemistry
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 17
Pages 2048-2055
Keywords Ecstasy; Diazepam; Drug abuse; Dependence; Identification
Public URL


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