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Researchers Improve Accuracy by Combining Testing Methods for Emerging Recreational Drugs

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2018
1 page
This is a summary report on a systematic study of microcrystalline tests for emerging illicit drugs, which created a database that can assist in mitigating the subjectivity of the tests.

Spurred by the surge of psychoactive substances for recreational drug use in recent years, this project developed a drug-testing process that assists forensic laboratories in easily and accurately identifying a host of emerging recreational drugs. The researchers used an infrared microspectroscopy method for analyzing drug microcrystals. This method uses the infrared spectra to interpret the difference between crystals formed by closely related compounds. The reason for combining data from microcrystalline tests with infrared analysis is to better understand the chemistry of the formed crystals and fill the knowledge gaps about microcrystalline tests. Researchers chose 30 substances from five classes of psychoactive drugs. Each was examined using common reagents (a substance that causes a chemical reaction). Based on the reagent analysis, several were then examined with infrared spectroscopy. The combination of standard microcrystal tests, which rely on visual description of the crystals, with the infrared method was more productive than either of the techniques used alone. The project created a website that includes photomicrographs and infrared data for such tests for 30 novel psychoactive substances. The website is called "Library of Microcrystalline Tests for Novel Psychoactive Substances." Access to the website is provided in this online report.

Date Published: April 1, 2018