Donna M. Papsun1 | Alex J Krotulski2 | Joe Homan1 | Keith D H Temporal1 | Barry K. Logan1,2
1. NMS Labs, Willow Grove, PA, USA
2. The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education, Willow Grove, PA, USA
Flualprazolam is a designer benzodiazepine and novel psychoactive substance (NPS) that is increasing in prevalence and appearing in forensic investigations. Flualprazolam was quantitatively confirmed in 197 blood samples from medicolegal death investigations and human performance cases reported between August 2019 and February 2020. Drug screening was performed using liquid chromatography-time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-TOF-MS) and quantitative confirmation was performed using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS). A three-point standard addition protocol was implemented for quantitation in the absence of an available traditionally validated assay. In postmortem cases with quantitative results (n = 167), the mean (±SD) flualprazolam concentration was 20 (±63) ng/mL, the median concentration was 8.2 ng/mL, and the range of concentrations was 2.0 to 620 ng/mL. Four additional postmortem cases were reported positive (<2.0 ng/mL). In drug impaired driving cases (n = 22), the mean (±SD) flualprazolam concentration was 22 (±18) ng/mL, the median concentration was 14 ng/mL, and the range of concentrations was 4.4 to 68 ng/mL. The four remaining cases were of unknown circumstances. This report details the most extensive data set of flualprazolam intoxication cases reported to date. There was significant overlap in concentrations of flualprazolam between postmortem and DUID cases. Flualprazolam was commonly (83% of the time) found in combination with opioids (e.g. fentanyl). Toxicologists should consider quantitative flualprazolam results in the context of case history, observations, and/or other toxicological findings. Addition of flualprazolam to the scope of drug testing should be considered by all laboratories.