Potential of GHB phase-II-metabolites to complement current approaches in GHB post administration detection

Thomas Piper, Lena-Maria Mehling, Annika Spottke, Anna Heidbreder, Peter Young, Burkhard Madea, Cornelius Hess, Wilhelm Schänzer, Mario Thevis

Publication: Contribution to journalJournal articlesResearchpeer-review


Recently, phase-II-metabolites of γ-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB), namely GHB-β-O-glucuronide and GHB-4-sulfate, were implemented in the scope of drug testing methods The clearance of GHB from the circulation is extremely fast due to its incorporation into the metabolic pathway of the citrate cycle. The elimination half-life of GHB from blood was reported to be dose dependent between 30 and 50min resulting in narrow detection windows of less than 12h after illicit administration or cases of drug facilitated sexual assault regardless of the biological matrix used. As sulfated metabolites tend to show prolonged half-lives and slower elimination kinetics compared to unmodified or glucuronidated drugs, the potential of GHB-4-sulfate in prolonging the detection of GHB administration was assessed. Its urinary concentrations were determined in n=100 samples from athletes and n=50 samples from sport students, and the resulting data were used to calculate a preliminary reference population-based threshold for urinary GHB-sulfate concentration. The threshold was then compared to concentrations found in post-administration urine samples collected from 3 volunteers who administered GHB within the setting of a clinical trial. Due to the large inter-individual variability of concentrations found in the reference population, GHB-4-sulfate itself was not suitable to prolong the detection times for GHB applications, even when specific gravity-corrected values were used. Therefore, a metabolomics-based approach was applied to the reference population samples and evaluated regarding other urinary metabolites that potentially correlate with the urinary excretion of GHB-4-sulfate and GHB-β-O-glucuronide in order to find a suitable marker to normalize urinary concentrations. The most promising candidate was found at a molecular mass of 321.0696 and was preliminarily identified as β-citryl-glutamic acid.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic science international
Pages (from-to)157-164
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 26.08.2017

Research areas and keywords

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Potential of GHB phase-II-metabolites to complement current approaches in GHB post administration detection'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.