Comparing the infrared transmission spectrum of cocaine HCl to its attenuated total reflection (ATR) spectrum has raised questions about the use of ATR spectra for forensic drug analysis. Whenever infrared spectra are collected using different modes or sample preparation methods, small variations in peak intensity ratios or peak positions are possible. These variations in infrared spectra are small and do not interfere with qualitative analysis, but they can cause confusion when unrecognized as normal effects of the different spectroscopic techniques. Comparison of the absorption and ATR spectra of cocaine hydrochloride illustrates the type of differences that can be expected. These differences are explained by the fundamental differences in the collection techniques. For the best quantitative results, only spectra collected by the same technique should be compared.
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