Colour test method for rapid detection of synthetic drugs
A portable test suitable for use in the field by law enforcement agencies for the detection of the illicit drug class NBOMe.
[Researcher talking to camera:] I’m Shanlin Fu, Associate Professor in the Centre for Forensic Science at UTS.
Currently there are many well-established and widely used colour test methods used by law enforcement agencies to detect conventional drugs of abuse such as cocaine, cannabis, heroin, methamphetamine and MDMA. But there’s none available for testing the new synthetic drugs such as NBOMes, 2Cs, piperizines and cathinones.
We aim to develop rapid, cost-effective, simple and easy-to-perform colour tests for these new synthetic drugs.
[Laura Clancy, PhD student in the UTS Centre for Forensic Science:] I’ve developed a colour test that can identify NBOMes and 2C compounds. They’re both hallucinogens and classed as new psychoactive substances. This test works really well in a laboratory situation and I’m currently aiming to optimise it a little bit more to be used in the field so police can easily take this sort of test to a crime scene and identify these drugs.
Some of the drugs that I’ve been looking at are the 25-NBOMe compounds. They’re hallucinogenic drugs that are about 100 times more potent that LSD, which just indicates how dangerous they can be and there’s little known about them. There’s also not many tests currently available to identify these drugs.
A simple and fast test like this saves law enforcement agencies money, time, resources, and can give them indications about what sorts of illicit drugs are in the area.
[Shanlin:] We’ve already commercialised one colour test for in-field testing.
[Tobias Scholl, Research and Development Manager at ESA-Test GmbH, Germany:] Our first contact with Shanlin was at TIAFT (The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists) in Brisbane where we approached him because we heard of his fantastic cathinone substance test, and we were very interested in this test. Since then we’ve worked on cooperating with them. Fortunately there’s been a positive outcome from this and now we’re working together, and we want to approach some scientific projects in the future as well.
[Shanlin:] We look forward to collaborating with other commercial companies to translate our colour test technology from the laboratory into real world applications.
[text:] Interested in collaborating with us? email@example.com
Currently there is a lack of a portable test for NBOMe compounds available to law enforcement agencies such as police forces and border protection agencies. Existing confirmatory laboratory tests can take a long time, sometimes longer than 24 hours.
A team at the Centre for Forensic Science at UTS has developed a presumptive colour test for the detection of NBOMe compounds, a new generation of illicit designer drugs. The test consists of adding a suspected substance to a proprietary colourless solution. A colour change within five minutes indicates a positive result for the NBOMe drug family. When the reagent solution remains colourless, it indicates a negative result.
A distinct advantage of this colour test is the small amounts of reagents required and the absence of hazardous concentrated acids or bases that are employed as a test reagent.
This simple, rapid colour test provides law enforcement with decisive information within minutes. This method greatly improves the agencies’ ability to immediately detect new designer drugs.
- Portable test
- Safe and easy to use by non-specialists with minimal training
- Results are available within five minutes
- Small quantities required
- High selectivity, limited cross-reactivity to other types of illicit drugs and commonly found cutting agents
- Law enforcement agencies such as police and border protection.
Status and IP Position
A patent application for this technology is being filed and UTS is seeking a partner to license this technology and/or to work with the researchers to develop it further.