National Center for Forensic Science

Drug & Toxicology

The forensic analysis of drugs is primarily used to determine if an unknown sample is an illicit drug or not. Complimentary, toxicology analysis aims to identify the presence of an illicit drug in a biological samples (i.e. urine or blood). Drug analysis consists of comparing the chemical analysis of unknown sample submitted to the laboratory to a known standard. This can be done by conducting wet tests, commonly referred to a colorimetric tests to see if a positive response occurs. Additionally, microscopic tests can be used to identify the type of drugs, this is commonly done for plant material. Chemical composition analysis is usually performed using gas chromatography – mass spectrometry (GC-MS), infrared (IR) spectroscopy, or liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry.

Forensic toxicological analysis will use many of the same instruments, including GC-MS and LC-MS, to determine the presence of the illicit drugs and/or their known metabolites. However, instead of just analyzing the raw drug material, the samples that are analyzed are human matrix samples, i.e. urine, blood or hair. Therefore, it is extremely necessary that sample preparation is conducted to remove/extract the drugs/metabolites from the biological matrix prior to analysis.

Once the examiner conducts analysis, they must compare the results with the results of a known drug in order to confirm the identify of the drugs.

NCFS drug/metabolite research:

1.Identifying the presence of masking agents or adulterants by direct analysis in real time – mass spectrometry (DART-MS) and GC-MS

2.Comparison of drug samples by the application of chemometrics to DART-MS data.

For more information contact Dr. Candice Bridge.