(Received 13 January 1994; accepted 20 May 1994)
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Previous studies on the khat plant (Catha edulis) illustrated the importance of using freshly harvested young shoots and leaves such that cathinone, the principal active component and Schedule I controlled drug contained within the plant, could be suitably isolated and identified. Upon drying and storage of the cut plant material, cathinone readily converts to the reduced product, cathine, which necessitates rapid extraction and chemical analysis for cathinone identification. This study demonstrates that by air drying the young khat shoots at ambient temperature, cathinone may be detected in khat samples that have been harvested for more than 10 days. Refrigeration for two weeks and freezing for one month of the khat samples also yield identifiable levels of cathinone. Cathinone and cathine are both specifically determined and differentiated by vapor phase infrared detection, which is the method of choice in relation to mass spectrometry.
Forensic Chemist, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Western Laboratory, San Francisco, CA
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