If you have watched, read, or listened to the news, you are well aware that street drugs are getting more powerful, and more deadly. The opioid crisis has become a health threat to almost every city and town in the United States, and beyond.
In November, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced that it would take immediate action against the flow of illicit fentanyl analogues into the country and the alarming increase in overdose deaths linked to synthetic opioids by scheduling all fentanyl-related substances on an emergency basis.
According to the DEA announcement, the bulk of illicit fentanyls arrive in the United States through the mail or express shipping systems, or are imported into the United States across the southwest border. “Overseas chemical manufacturers, aided by illicit domestic distributors, currently attempt to evade regulatory controls by creating structural variants of fentanyl that are not directly listed under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Without that action, prosecutors must overcome cumbersome evidentiary hurdles to secure convictions of these traffickers under the Analogue Act.” The announcement went on to say that the action represents just one step in the ongoing fight to battle the opioid epidemic and that the DEA is committed to using all of its tools to aggressively fight and address the opioid crisis and growing fentanyl problem plaguing the United States.
Another tool used in the opioid battle is Raman spectroscopy, a well-established analytical technique that powers handheld narcotics analyzers. These instruments can be used in the field to identify key drugs of abuse as well as common cutting agents, precursors and emerging threats such as fentanyl, numerous fentanyl compounds including carfentanil, common street fentanyl analogs, pharmaceutical variants as well as the fentanyl precursors, NPP and ANPP.
There is a concern for law enforcement who are on the scene that they can accidentally be affected by the presence of powerful narcotics, including fentanyl and its numerous compounds. A recent article published by Chemical & Engineering News talked about the tools for identifying opioids and how they can help protect officers and others from accidental overdose.
The extreme potency of fentanyl and its analogs has law enforcement anxious about coming in contact with unknown drugs. Powders can easily spill onto hands or clothing or become airborne, allowing for inhalation or accidental ingestion. Last year, two New Jersey police officers overdosed on fentanyl after a puff of the powder containing the drug escaped a baggie they were closing.
Handheld narcotics analyzers can quickly identify narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, analgesics, and synthetic opiods right through the bag for most substances. One can scan directly through plastic or glass to minimize contamination, reduce exposure and preserve evidence. An officer can scan a single sample for multiple narcotics in one non-destructive and non-contact test, and receive the results within seconds.
As the author pointed out in the C&EN article, before the opioid crisis, law enforcement officers who came across suspected drugs commonly conducted a field test using “wet chem kits.” While wet chemistry kits are still used, the author notes that the kits can be “subjective and easy to misinterpret” and “the act of taking a sample now puts officers at risk for accidental exposure.”
If you want more information about the “Instruments for identifying opioids that aim to protect officers and others from accidental overdose” you can read the full article here: Powerful detection technology for powerful new street drugs