UTS Science in Focus: Illicit drugs - are we fighting a losing battle?
How do authorities and forensic laboratories deal with a growing, borderless illicit drug market that seems to stay one step ahead of the law? Two forensic scientists explain how their research in rapid drug detention and forensic intelligence is helping to deal with illicit drug crimes in Australia.
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?