Australia is currently seeing record levels of illicit drug seizures and arrests, with over 23.5 tonnes seized nationally in 2014-2015. On Christmas Day last year, police recorded their largest ever cocaine bust in Australia with 500kg of cocaine, worth $162 million, seized on fishing boat near the Sydney Fish Market.
New drugs are also being developed on a daily basis, with approximately two new synthetic drugs entering the world market each week. The United Nations believes there are now more than 750 synthetic varieties—common names like ‘bath salts’ sound harmless, while others have been coined with more sinister names, like ‘zombie drugs’. All however, are highly dangerous because not a lot is known about them.
So, how do authorities and forensic labs deal with this growing, borderless illicit drug market that seems to stay one step ahead of the law? Do we need to re-think the way these dangerous substances are being policed and managed?
In this UTS Science in Focus talk, Ms Morgan Philp, a PhD candidate from the UTS Centre for Forensic Science, will explain how her research, supervised by Associate Professor Shanlin Fu, has led to the creation of a rapid, cost-effective and ‘on the spot’ test for synthetic cathinones—commonly known as ‘bath salts’.
Dr Marie Morelato, Chancellor’s Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, and an expert in drug intelligence from the UTS Centre for Forensic Science, will then explain how forensic intelligence can be applied to better understand the structure of organised crime and help to inform public policy makers.