Novel Synthetic Opioids in Oral Fluid: Analytical Methods and Prevalence

Novel Synthetic Opioids in Oral Fluid: Analytical Methods and Prevalence

This webinar originally occurred on February 11, 2021
Duration: 1 hour


Opioid use has risen dramatically, creating public safety concerns. Synthetic opioids can be hundreds of times more potent than heroin and can produce severe intoxications and even fatalities when abused. The fatality rate is increased dramatically when synthetic opioids are cut into heroin unbeknownst to the user. Synthetic drugs may also be abused by populations trying to evade positive drug tests aimed at detecting more traditional substances. Though all structures do not mimic morphine or traditional opioids, typical adverse side effects are opioid-like, including respiratory distress, nausea, and decreased consciousness. Despite legislative bans in some countries, the substances are still available on the Internet and continue to be discussed on drug user forums. From a toxicology standpoint, the drugs are often difficult to detect in biological samples with current methodologies due to the extreme potency of the substances. Oral fluid is a useful biological sample for determining recent drug use. Collection of oral fluid does not require a same-sex collector (like urine) or a trained medical professional (like blood) and can be collected under direct observation, deterring adulteration.

This webinar discussed the analytical methodology developed and validated to identify and quantify novel synthetic opioids and traditional opioids in oral fluid. The presenter also discussed targeted and non-targeted approaches using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) methods for detection of fentanyl- and non-fentanyl related novel synthetic opioids. Additionally, this webinar covered sample preparation techniques for isolating synthetic opioids with various chemistries and structures. Further, analytical challenges regarding sample preparation and chromatography were considered.

Lastly, the presenter presented and summarized analytical results from authentic oral fluid specimens collected from detainees, inmates, and those undergoing therapeutic drug monitoring.

Learning Objectives

  1. Attendees will be able to identify key steps of method development for sensitive analytical techniques for novel synthetic opioids in oral fluid.
  2. Attendees will be able to compare and contrast targeted and non-targeted analytical approaches for detecting novel synthetic opioids in oral fluid.
  3. Attendees will understand the prevalence of novel synthetic opioids from detainees, jail inmates, and those undergoing therapeutic drug monitoring.


  • Dr. Madeleine Swortwood | Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Programs for the Department of Forensic Science at Sam Houston State University

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence webinar has been provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webinar are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Contact us at with any questions and subscribe to our newsletter for notifications.

Related Content

The Sentinel Role of Forensic Toxicology Laboratories to Identify and Act Upon Diverse Drug Threats by Addressing Toxicology and Economic Demands

Publication Forensic Science International: Synergy, September, 2022 Authors Jeri D. Ropero Miller | RTI International Lawrance D. Mullen | RTI International Paul J. Speaker | West Virginia University Introduction The societal costs from substance abuse are extensive and include treatment…

Medicolegal Death Investigation Partnerships on Overdose Fatality Reviews

Date July 2022 Overview The main purpose of Overdose Fatality Reviews (OFRs) is to review overdose fatalities and find gaps in services to help save lives. They rely on a multi-agency approach to information sharing to accomplish this goal. Upon…

Project ECHO: Applications for the Medicolegal Death Investigation Community and Other Forensic Disciplines

Date October 2022 Overview Similar to the foundational ECHO model designed for primary care providers, ECHO: Overdose Fatality Investigation Techniques (OD-FIT) is designed to promote the rapid dissemination of medicolegal death investigation-specific knowledge for immediate application to overdose casework.1 The ECHO…