White Paper – Evolving Approaches and Technologies for Seized Drug Analysis

White Paper – Evolving Approaches and Technologies for Seized Drug Analysis

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December 2023


The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), in partnership with the Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (FTCOE) at RTI International, formed the Forensic Laboratory Needs Technology Working Group (FLN-TWG). The FLN-TWG supports NIJ’s mission to improve knowledge and understanding of the forensic technology needs of federal, state, local, and tribal forensic practitioners and crime laboratories. 

This white paper introduces evolving approaches and technologies that are available to address existing challenges with the analysis of seized drugs and was created to inform forensic laboratory leaders and those involved in procurement of analytical instrumentation. These challenges include the rapidly evolving nature of the seized drug landscape, including the presence of NPS; the identification of closely related chemical substances, such as positional isomers and diastereomers; minor component detection in mixtures; differentiation of hemp and marijuana, including the analysis of marijuana products, THC isomers, and THC derivatives; the screening of multiple subunits; and seized drug backlogs. The Evolving Approaches and Technologies for Seized Drug Analysis subcommittee developed five technical notes describing techniques that are potential solutions to the identified challenges faced by the seized drug community. 

Funding for this Forensic Technology Center of Excellence report was provided by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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