Simultaneous determination of gamma-hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) and gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) in beverages

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Psychoactive gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) and its prodrug gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) are substances that are increasingly abused as date-rape and recreational (party) drugs. Since the non-controlled GBL converts into the illicit GHB both in-vivo and in-vitro, their legal distinction is of crucial importance.For the forensic determination of illegally added GHB and GBL in commonly consumed beverages, this work presents a simple and sensitive method that employs direct-injection ion chromatography combined with spectrophotometric detection. The method allows to trace GHB-GLB interconversion, whether in vivo or in vitro lactone cleavage or intramolecular GHB esterification, and thus complies with pertinent requirements of law enforcement agencies.