Date of Award

Spring 6-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forensic Science



First Advisor or Mentor

Marta Concheiro-Guisan

Second Reader

Teeshavi Acosta

Third Advisor

Kevin J. Bisceglia


The use of licit and illicit drugs has been increasing significantly over the past few years within the United States. Due to this increase, these drugs are emerging as contaminants in surface and ground water. The presence of pharmacologically active compounds in this environment can be extremely harmful to aquatic life as they are continuously exposed to these substances. The goal of this study was two-fold: 1) Develop and validate an analytical method for 28 different drugs including cocaine, amphetamines, opioids, cannabis, and prescription medicines, in river water; 2) Identify and quantify drugs found in New York City waterways over the Summer of 2021. River water samples were extracted by solid phase extraction and analyzed via liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. The linearity of the method ranged from 5 to 1000 ng/L, and the limit of detection was 1 ng/L. The method showed acceptable bias and imprecision. All analytes demonstrated extraction efficiency values greater than 50% except for THC-COOH, benzoylecgonine, and sulfamethoxazole. Regarding matrix effects, most of the analytes displayed ion suppression between -54.8% and - 27.8% except for oxycodone, clonidine, 6-acetylmorphine, sulfamethoxazole, cocaine, metoprolol, cocaethylene, and methadone that showed no matrix effect. A total of 215 samples were analyzed from 18 locations collected weekly for 13 weeks (May-August 2021). The most common substances detected were metoprolol, benzoylecgonine and atenolol, followed by methamphetamine, cocaine, EDDP, and norfentanyl. We developed a sensitive and specific method for the determination of licit and illicit drugs in river water samples. Common drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals were detected in NYC waterways at ng/L levels.

Available for download on Tuesday, June 04, 2024