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Overview of Controlled Substances

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Date Published
November 16, 2015

Controlled substances are chemicals that have a legally recognized potential for abuse. They include “street drugs” such as heroin or ecstasy and prescription drugs such as oxycodone. Detecting and identifying controlled substances is a critical step in law enforcement's fight against drug-related crime and violence.

Controlled substances present law enforcement and criminal justice professionals with the following problems:

  • Large quantities of drug evidence are collected and submitted to crime laboratories, resulting in backlogs.
  • New designer drugs emerge regularly, requiring crime laboratories to develop new analytical techniques and spend more time on analysis.
  • Many drugs are similar in appearance and properties, creating a high degree of difficulty in distinguishing their exact identity.

New technology is needed to improve law enforcement efforts to address these issues. To achieve these goals, NIJ seeks to fund research to develop:

  • More sensitive detection tools to use at crime scenes.
  • Improved tools and techniques to identify controlled substances, including emerging “designer drugs,” and evolving manufacturing techniques for existing drugs.
  • New, faster and more efficient tools and techniques to analyze controlled substances in the laboratory.
  • Improved ways to integrate tools, techniques and skill sets of other forensic disciplines to analyze controlled substances.

See also Forensic Toxicology.

Date Published: November 16, 2015