This eleventh episode of the "Drugs Season" series of Just Science podcasts is an interview with Dr. Barry Logan, Senior Vice President of Forensic Science Initiatives and Chief of Forensic Toxicology at National Medical Services, who discusses the convergence of drivers of the national opioid epidemic, with attention to the constituents of these novel compounds and why it matters to illicit drug manufacturers, regulatory agencies, and local crime labs.
The interview first focuses on historic trends in the nature and availability of potentially toxic psychoactive drugs in the United States. Logan notes that the first synthetic cannabinoids appeared in the United States around 2008, which sparked a proliferation of multiple synthetic drugs whose components, dosages, and toxicity may be unknown to drug regulators, toxicologists, and drug users. Logan describes the DEA's current structure for scheduling illegal drugs under a rapidly evolving production of designer drugs. The problems this presents for crime labs responsible for analyzing seized substances and potential drug overdose deaths are discussed in this interview. Suggestions are offered for how crime labs should deal with cases where traditional crime lab procedures for analyzing unknown substances are unable to identify constituents of some synthetic compounds. Preservation of data on unknown substances is recommended. The emergence of new drug analytical methods could then be used at some later time to fill gaps in information on the synthetic drug market trends. Logan briefly describes the content of a series of webinars being planned to address some of these issues confronting crime labs.