Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $311,221)
As submitted by the proposer:
Opioid use has risen dramatically, creating public safety concerns. Synthetic opioids can be hundreds of times more potent than heroin, and can produce severe intoxications and even fatalities when abused.
Synthetic drugs are often abused by populations trying to evade positive drug tests aimed at detecting more traditional substances. Oral fluid, or saliva, is a useful biological sample for determining presence of drug use as samples do not require specialized or intrusive collection from the subject. This research grant proposes to determine prevalence of synthetic opioid use in populations routinely drug tested (i.e. prisoners, arrestees, drivers under the influence of drugs) by analyzing oral fluid specimens (n = 1,500) for traditional opiates (heroin, morphine, etc.) as well as novel synthetic opioids (AH-7921, MT-45, U-47700, W-18, etc.).
The oral fluid specimens will be collected via Quantisal collection devices (via lmmunalysis Corp. partnership) from subjects in various geographical U.S. locations over time in order to assess broad-based trends. The only information collected per oral fluid sample will be age, race, and location site which will be assigned to a sample number without any identifying information. In addition to specimens collected by the researchers, additional forensic oral fluid specimens will be provided by forensic toxicology laboratories for testing (ex. Alabama Department of Forensic Science partnership).
Opiates and opioids will be quantified by a validated analytical method using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (currently under development). Analysis of a wide-variety of opiates and opioids, including novel compounds, will allow the researchers to identify drug use trends (type of synthetic drugs used; prevalence) in populations that are routinely drug tested.
Expected outcome include presentation at national forensic conference, publication in a high-impact, peer-reviewed forensic journal, and publicly available data in a final report. Additionally, validated methodology will be published as an additional manuscript to disseminate validated technique for detection of these analytes in oral fluid for incorporation into their laboratory SOPs. This study will allow for understanding the extent of synthetic opioid abuse and may help transform future drug testing policy.
Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law, and complies with Part 200 Uniform Requirements - 2 CFR 200.210(a)(14).