Rationale: The presence of α-pyrrolidinovalerophenone (α-PVP) and its metabolites in urine is evidence of the administration of α-PVP. A toxicological challenge is that the metabolites of α-PVP exhibit amphoteric properties, which make them unsuitable for detection using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC/MS). In the study reported, proper derivatization and sample extraction were essential for improving the sensitivity for GC/MS analysis. Methods: An automated solid-phase extraction (SPE) method has been developed and optimized. The derivatization efficiency was tested using longer reaction time and the addition of polar pyridine into a mixture of N,O-bis(trimethylsilyl)trifluoroacetamide (BSTFA) with 1% trimethylchlorosilane. Method validation, including linearity, limit of detection, precision, accuracy, and recovery, was evaluated using automatic SPE and GC/MS. Results: The results suggested that adding pyridine to BSTFA (1:1, v/v) significantly improved derivatization efficiency and precision. After optimization, the linear range was from 25 to 1000 ng mL−1 with R2 > 0.9950. The limit of detection was 5 ng mL−1 for α-PVP and 25 ng mL−1 for OH-α-PVP. The recovery for SPE was over 88%. The inter-day and intra-day precisions were less than 15%. A forensic sample has been found containing α-PVP (67.3 ng mL−1) and OH-α-PVP (560.2 ng mL−1). Conclusions: This study is the first to validate an auto-SPE-GC/MS method for the quantification and qualification of α-PVP and OH-α-PVP in urine. We have successfully improved the derivatization efficiency and developed a sensitive and semi-automatic approach. This approach is desirable for the detection of synthetic cathinone at trace levels in biological samples.
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