With the influx of synthetic opioids like fentanyl and other emerging drugs of abuse (commonly referred to as novel psychoactive substances) into forensic casework over the last several years, laboratories are working on innovative solutions to the challenges of narcotics analysis. Labs are increasingly tasked with processing more complex samples, including those containing more highly toxic chemicals. Current screening methods, such as color tests (which indicate presence/absence of a particular drug class) and gas chromatography with flame ionization (which measures substances in gas steam), are becoming less effective due to the greater complexity of submitted samples. These issues translate into growing burdens on labs, who are already facing mounting backlogs. NIJ-funded researchers from the Maryland State Police analyzed the current drug evidence analysis caseflow and evaluated whether a re-envisioned workflow employing DART-MS could lead to increased safety, speed, sensitivity, and selectivity in controlled substance analysis.
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