Detection of Papaverine for the Possible Identification of Illicit Opium Cultivation

Papaverine is a non-narcotic alkaloid found endemically and uniquely in the latex of the opium poppy. It is normally refined out of the opioids that the latex is typically collected for, hence its presence in a sample is strong prima facie evidence that the carrier from whom the sample was collected is implicated in the mass cultivation of poppies or the collection and handling of their latex. We describe an analysis technique combining surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) with microfluidics for detecting papaverine at low concentrations and show that its SERS spectrum has unique spectroscopic features that allows its detection at low concentrations among typical opioids. The analysis requires approximately 2.5 min from sample loading to results, which is compatible with field use. The weak acid properties of papaverine hydrochloride were investigated, and Raman bands belonging to the protonated and unprotonated forms of the isoquinoline ring of papaverine were identified.

Rustin Y. Mirsafavi, Kristine Lai, Neal D. Kline, Augustus W. Fountain, Carl D. Meinhart and Martin Moskovits
Analytical Chemistry
Volume: 89
Number: 3
Pages: 1684–1688
Date: January, 2017
ICB Affiliated Authors: Martin Moskovits, Carl D Meinhart