The use of prodrugs as drugs of abuse

Julio de Carvalho Ponce*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Prodrugs are an important strategy for the development and design of therapeutic drugs. They involve the addition of an easily removable group (such as an ester) to a molecule in order to chemically protect it from metabolism, hydrolysis, or interaction with tissues. In the therapeutic drug market, prodrugs may reduce adverse effects, lead to more accurate tissue delivery, increase bioavailability and duration of effects. The same strategy has, however, been used in the illicit drug market. Internationally controlled drugs such as LSD, MDMA and benzodiazepines have been detected in the market with the addition of alkyl chain that can be removed in physiological conditions. Cyclical analogues may also be used, as is the case for 1cP-LSD and GBL (a prodrug of GHB). Adequate detection requires increased care with extraction and analytical conditions—as the parent drugs may be formed as artifacts during these processes—and an in-depth knowledge of metabolic pathways to avoid erroneous detection and allow for adequate identification of the drug used. Legislative updates may also be necessary to ensure prodrugs can be controlled at the same level as other illicit drugs.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1514
Number of pages13
JournalWIREs Forensic Science
Early online date19 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Mar 2024
Externally publishedYes

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