Reuters published a special report about youth and illicit drug use during the pandemic, and it is a sad picture. According to the report, “Last year, with schools, youth sports and other programs closed nationwide in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the rate of drug-related 911 calls for young people aged 20 and under increased by 43%….”
An analysis of emergency response data showed that “More than 80% of the drug emergencies involved use of opioids such as pain medications, fentanyl and heroin, but included all classes of drugs.”
Needless to say, parents, community leaders, and law enforcement are alarmed, and are looking for ways to protect their neighborhoods and their children.
In many areas, law enforcement officers are utilizing the latest drug detection technology to quickly identify suspected illegal drugs in the field as a presumptive testing method for use with search warrants, probable cause, preliminary hearings and felony arraignment. The latest technology includes handheld chemical identification and narcotics identification analyzers that can identify unknown substances on the spot — at a traffic stop or a street corner — and can quickly adapt to new designer drugs and emerging variations as they gain traction in the market.
If a suspect has overdosed, by quickly determining what the drug involved is, officers can get the best treatment and result for the individual. In addition, the results can be used to press charges against the suspect immediately instead of waiting months for lab results to come back. (Read how the Charles County Sheriff’s Office believes that the community will benefit from this technology because they will be able to charge suspects sooner and more precisely.)
Officers also have some protection from the drugs while using this technology as samples can be tested without removing them from the plastic bag, drastically reducing risks of exposure for officers. A small quantity of fentanyl coming in contact with an officer can result in an overdose or death.
The global drug problem is increasing, with production and trafficking of fentanyl, methamphetamines, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy), heroin, and cathinones (bath salts) impacting communities worldwide and stressing already constrained investigative resources. Law enforcement personnel need to utilize the latest technology to quickly identify suspected illegal drugs in the field and get clear results which will help keep youth, communities, and themselves safe.