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Fast On-site Screening of Seized Drugs by Electrochemical and Spectroscopic Tools: Identification of Fentanyl and Novel Psychoactive Substances

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Past Project Period End Date
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2019, $267,438)

Routine seized drug field testing uses color tests as presumptive identification of illegal substances. Instrumental analyses are then conducted at the laboratory to confirm the drug identity. As an attempt to speed up the process and compensate for the rapid increase of caseloads, several U.S. jurisdictions have accepted field test results at preliminary hearings. Nonetheless, the emergence of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) has brought additional challenges to color assays. Spot tests are not sensitive or selective enough to new drug formulations, increasing the number of false positive and false negative results, and not meeting legal standards for preliminary hearings. The consequences are overwhelming to the judiciary system as the number of cases that require laboratory testing increase backlogs and raise costs of analysis and incarceration. Moreover, fentanyl and novel fentalogs represent a safety concern to law enforcement personnel and first responders, as fatal-doses can possibly be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Therefore, there is a critical need to develop alternative rapid, cheap, and reliable screening methods for in-situ drug identification.

The long-term objective of this project is to introduce smart and cost-effective portable instrumentation to integrate crime scenes with the forensic laboratories in real-time. The primary aim of this study is to develop and validate ultrafast screening methods that increase the reliability and productivity of drug identification. Powerful electrochemical (EC) techniques are presented as surrogate technologies to detect emerging drugs, like fentanyl and NPS, in drug trafficking and seized drug cases. Raman spectroscopy is proposed as an orthogonal approach to EC to enhance the scientific value of the evidence. Also, this study aims to evaluate chemometric tools for data mining of EC and Raman information for improved drug identification.

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).


Date Created: September 13, 2019