Identification and quantitation
of alkaloids in coca tea
Amanda J. Jenkins , Teobaldo Llosa , Ivan Montoya and Edward J. Cone Addiction Research Center, NIDA/NIH, P.O. Box 5180, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA.
The consumption of coca tea is a common occurrence in many South American countries. The tea is often packaged in individual servings as tea bags which contain approximately 1 g of plant material. The consumption of coca tea leads to ingestion of cocaine and other alkaloids: however, there is little information available regarding the pharmacological or toxicological effects that result from consumption of coca tea. We performed a series of studies with coca tea bags from two South American countries, Peru and Bolivia. The alkaloidal content of the ‘coca leaf’ in coca tea bags was determined by two different extraction methods: Soxhlet extraction with methanol (exhaustive extraction), and mechanical agitation with methanol. Extracts were purified by solid-phase extraction (SPE) followed by analysis by gas chromatography/mass spectrornetry (GC/MS). Coca tea prepared from Peruvian and Bolivian coca tea bags was also analyzed by SPE-GC/MS assay. In addition, urine specimens were analyzed from an individual who consumed one cup of Peruvian coca tea and one cup of Bolivian coca tea on separate occasions. Urine samples were analyzed by immunoassay (TDx®) and SPE-GC/MS. Analysis of coca tea bags and coca tea indicated that cocaine, benzoylecgonine, ecgonine methyl ester and trans-cinnamoylcocaine were present in varying quantities. With exhaustive extraction, an average of 5.11 mg, and 4.86 mg of cocaine per tea bag were found in coca leaf from Peru and Bolivia, respectively. The average amounts of benzoylecgonine and ecgonine methyl ester in Peruvian coca leaf were 0.11 and 1.15 mg, and in Bolivian coca leaf were 0.12 and 2.93 mg per tea bag, respectively. trans-Cinnamoylcocaine was found in trace amounts in Peruvian tea bags and 0.16 mg/tea bag of Bolivian tea. When tea was prepared, an average of 4.14 mg of cocaine was present in a cup of Peruvian coca tea and 4.29 mg of cocaine was present in Bolivian tea. Following the consumption of a cup of Peruvian tea by one individual, a peak urine benzoylecgonine concentration of 3940 ng/ml occurred 10 h after ingestion. Consumption of Bolivian coca tea resulted in a peak benzoylecgonine concentration of 4979 ng/ml at 3.5 h. The cumulative urinary excretion of benzoylecgonine after approximately 48 h, determined by GC/MS, was 3.11 mg and 2.69 mg after consumption of Peruvian and Bolivian coca tea, respectively. This study demonstrated that coca tea bags and coca tea contain a significant amount of cocaine and cocaine-related alkaloids and the consumption of a single cup of Peruvian or Bolivian coca tea produces positive drug test results for cocaine metabolites.