The Drug Identification Section is made up of two parts; drug analysis and clandestine lab analysis. The drug analysis section analyzes submitted evidence from possession charges, delivery charges, or related to other crimes. The clandestine laboratory section analyzes samples seized from illicit laboratories, usually producing methamphetamine. Precursors, starting materials, by-products, the controlled substance and other chemicals are identified in the samples. Yield estimations from the amount of precursor available to the operator are also calculated.
The Drug ID section analyzes controlled substances submitted to the laboratory by law enforcement personnel. The Criminalists in the drug section routinely testify in court, at the local, state, and federal level, pertaining to their reports submitted and the results obtained.
This section typically receives 750 individual cases each month containing 1500 to 2000 items. The chart shown below gives the "top ten list" of drugs as identified in the controlled substance identification section of the crime lab.
|Substance Identified 2018||Substance Identified 2016||Substance Identified 2014||Substance Identified 2006|
|4||Heroin||Heroin||No Controlled substance||No Controlled Substance|
Findings of the Drug Identification Section for the period beginning January 1 and ending December 31 of each respective year (only top 10 listed).
Examples of different drugs submitted to the lab:
Preparations of Marijuana Tar substance Ground plant material Oil
Emerging Drugs: Synthetic Cannabinoids
- What is a synthetic cannabinoid?
Synthetic Cannabinoids are synthetically derived chemicals that are functionally similar to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient in marijuana. Both act on the same receptors in the brain and produce similar effects, although the intensity may vary. The structures if the chemicals are also different.
Synthetic cannabinoids are best known as K2 or spice, packaged in little foil packets, with bizarre names such as 100% Pure Evil, Judgment Day, Armageddon, Kush, Oblivion, Mr. Nice Guy, Big Bang and K2.
A synthetic cannabinoid is made as a powder and then dissolved into a liquid, like water, and is then sprayed onto a plant material, like herbs/spices, potpourri, and other similar materials.
Just as the names of the packets are different, the chemical content of the synthetic cannabinoid can be different. There are hundreds of different synthetic cannabinoids being made or have been made. The rate at which these different synthetics are produced means that a lot of the newer synthetics are not controlled. Some of the chemical names of these synthetics are the JWH-series, CP 47, 497, HU210, HU211, 5F- AKB48, AB CHMINACA, AB FUBINACA, AB PINACA, AKB 48, AM 2201, PB 22, RCS 4, UR 144, 4-F-MDMB-BUTINACA, 5-F-MDMB-PICA, and XLR11. Other synthetics are the phenethylamines such as 2,5-B NBOMe, 2,5-C NBOMe, 2,5-I NBOMe, 2 C-B, 2 C-I, and synthetic cathinones such as 4-Fluoro-alpha-PVP and Alpha PVP. Most of these are common to be seen in the crime lab, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
Different packaging for Synthetic Cannabinoids
- Which synthetic cannabinoids are controlled?
(Round 1) First generation synthetic controls included 5 structural classes as a “catch all” method for controlling compounds in the JWH family as well as commonly seen compounds such as AM-2201, RCS-4 and RCS-8. These controls went into effect for Iowa law on May 25th, 2012, and for federal law on July 9th, 2012.
(Round 2) XLR-11, UR-144 and AKB-48 were emergency scheduled, federally, as Schedule I controlled substances on May 16th, 2013. XLR-11, UR-144 and AKB-48 were temporarily scheduled by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy as Schedule I controlled substances from July 9th, 2013 to March 14th 2014. XLR-11, UR-144 and AKB-48 were listed as Schedule I controlled substances by the Iowa legislature on April 3rd, 2014.
(Round 3) AB-FUBINACA, PB-22 and 5-fluoro-PB-22 were emergency scheduled, federally, as Schedule I controlled substances on February 10, 2014. AB-FUBINACA, PB-22 and 5-fluoro-PB-22 were temporarily scheduled by the Iowa Pharmacy Board as Schedule I controlled substances on March 13th, 2014.
After these three rounds of controls, the federal government has begun using the Analog Act to prosecute synthetic cannabinoids that are not currently listed as controlled. Iowa does not have an Analog Act, and many lawyers have been prosecuting under the Imitation of a Controlled Substance law for the synthetic cannabinoids which are not currently listed as controlled.
- Synthetic Ethanamines, Cathinones and Tryptamines
Other drugs that have come on the market are similar in chemical structure to drugs that have been controlled for a number of years. The ethanamine group includes 25B-NBOMe, 25B-NBOMe, 25I-NBOMe, 2C-P, 2C-E and 2C-T-4. The cathinone group includes naphyrone, pentylone, pentedrone, methedrone, ethcathinone, α-PVP, α-PBP and 4-fluoromethcathinone. The tryptamine group includes 5-methoxy-DALT, DiPT, 4-hydroxy-MET and 5-methoxy-DMT.
What is trending in Drug Chemistry?
- Marijuana products: Chocolates, Hard candies, Gummy candies, Marijuana butter, Marijuana wax
Marijuana Products Marijuana Chocolate Marijuana Cookie Marijuana Candy Marijuana Candy Marijuana Candy Marijuana Brownies Marijuana Cookies Marijuana Rice Crispy Treats Marijuana Rice Crispy Treats
- E-cigarettes and e-cartridges
Marijuana oils for e-cigarettes E-cigarette cartridges containing marijuana oil
Frequently Asked Questions:
- What is a controlled substance?
Controlled substances are drugs that are regulated by state and federal laws that aim to control the danger of addiction, abuse, physical and mental harm, the trafficking by illegal means, and the dangers from actions of those who have used the substances. Such drugs may be declared illegal for sale or use, but may be dispensed under a physician's prescription.
The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, is the legal foundation of the federal government's fight against the abuse of drugs and other substances. This law is a consolidation of numerous laws regulating the manufacture and distribution of narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids, and chemicals used in the illicit production of controlled substances.
- How is testing performed on controlled substances?
The net weight (weight of substance without packaging) of the substance is recorded prior to any sampling and then a portion of the sample is taken for analysis. If available, a color test (field test), which reacts to certain functional groups, is performed as a presumptive test. Then, either a Gas Chromatography (GC) or Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC) analysis is done as another preliminary test. Finally, either Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometery (GC/MS) or Infrared Spectrophotometery (IR) is done as a confirmatory test. All tests are compared with a known standard ran in the same time frame to confirm the identity.
Methamphetamine Marquis Reagent Sodium Nitroprusside Heroin Marquis Reagent Mecke Reagent Froehde Reagent Thin Layer Chromatography TLC Tanks for developing the TLC plates
Plant materials, or plant material extracts, are analyzed by four tests. Macroscopic, microscopic, Duqenois-Levine color test, and Thin Layer Chromatography. Plant material which is suspected to be marijuana is examined under a low power microscope. If certain botanical characteristics are seen, the material is subjected to the two additional chemical tests. A positive for all these tests is a positive for marijuana. When a plant material is submitted to the lab and has been processed and no longer has botanical characteristics, it is often reported as marijuana residue or preparation of marijuana.
Duquenois-Levine Color Test Steps of the Duquenois Test Different Shades of Purple for the test Thin Layer Chromatography Developed TLC Plate for Marijuana Samples
- What can be tested?
Residues, solids, liquids, tablets, powders, crystalline substances, pipes, cigarettes, consumables, transdermal patches and plant material can all be submitted for analysis at the DCI crime lab.
- When is a purity analysis done?
Quantitation of methamphetamine may be performed for federal prosecution of cases over 1 gram and for clandestine laboratory cases as required. Purity analysis is also done occasionally on phencyclidine (PCP) cases for federal prosecution or PCP cases other than possession in which the net weight is more than 10 grams.
- How do you package a suspected controlled substance?
Most samples can be put into a Ziploc plastic bag or manila envelope (small particles will escape from the corners) as long as the sample is not wet. For instance, powders and crystals are better in a Ziploc bag then in an envelope so that the small particles do not escape. If the sample is wet (with the exception of liquids), allow to dry before packaging, especially with plant materials. Liquids should be in a vial or sealable container that is airtight to prevent leakage. Liquids from syringes must be deposited into another sealable container. A secondary plastic bag can be used for extra protection against leaks. Large, dry items can also be put into paper sacks or cardboard boxes.
- Are samples consumed in the process of testing?
Generally, only up to half of the sample would be taken for testing. If the sample is a residue, or a very small amount, then the whole sample may be used and the sampled material would be returned to the evidence package after analysis.
- What should be submitted to the lab for processing?
See the lab Evidence Submission and Processing Guidelines - Revised September 24, 2019
- What is the Hypergeometric Sampling Plan and when is it used?
The Hypergeometric Sampling Plan is a statistically based sample model which allows the analyst to analyze only a portion of the sub-items submitted and subsequently make statistical inferences about the entire population.
The sampling plan is used when there are a large number of sub-items and the sub-items are visually similar to each other. The selection is random among the population and analysis is done on the selected sub-items.
- How should I interpret my field test kit results?
It has to be noted that field test kits are only presumptive tests. They often are sensitive, but not specific, which means that many different substances may cause a reaction in the kit. After adding the sample, observe color change for up to one minute. Test kits often contain acids that will change the substance after this time. For this reason, do not send used test kits to the lab, as they will no longer be accurate.
- How many marijuana plants should I submit?
It depends on the number of plants. If there is a reasonable number of plants, then possibly all of the plants. If there are many, then a selection may have to be done. Contacting the drug section with this question may aid in the decision. Each plant should be submitted in its own packaging, separate from the other plants.
- We have a Spice or synthetic package labeled (insert name here), have you seen it before and what did it contain/were its contents controlled?
Synthetic cannabinoids are packaged under hundreds of different names. Because there is no regulation over the producers of these products, there is no way of telling what the contents are based on the packaging. We are not able to give information based solely on the name on the package.
- How can I get the results for a case faster?
We take rush requests here at the lab, but only when the trial is coming up soon and the case has not been processed or in special circumstances. To get a rush put on a case, it requires a letter from the attorney requesting a rush and the date and time of the trial.
- Should I be worried about my safety when handling controlled substances?
You should always be careful when handling any unknown substance and wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but there are a few controlled substances in particular that you should be cautious about when handling. LSD most often comes on blotter paper (like construction paper with perforated lines) and the drug can readily absorb through the skin. This is the same with Fentanyl, which is most often found as a prescription patch. You should also be cautious of wet plant material that has molded. For instance, moldy marijuana and other plants can produce a fungus called Aspergillus. In regards to synthetic drugs, they are generally applied to the plant materials/potpourri/herbs as a liquid, so caution should be taken with these substances as well. You should also be cautious with liquid drugs, especially when you don’t know what the liquid is.
- What clandestine laboratory items are not accepted by the laboratory?
Containers with anhydrous ammonia are not accepted. Law enforcement is discouraged from submitting labeled containers of either muriatic acid or sulfuric acid. Similarly, law enforcement is discouraged from submitting acidic liquids or liquid/solid mixtures from unmarked containers and from used HCl generators. Law enforcement is also discouraged from submitting excessive numbers of coffee filters with residues. In such instances, a representative sampling of the group can be submitted and the remainder documented by photographs. Items, such as batteries and instant cold packs, that are factory sealed need not be submitted. An inventory of pseudoephedrine tablets or empty tablet packaging can be submitted in lieu of the actual items.
- How do I package clandestine laboratory items before submitting them to the laboratory?
A call to the laboratory beforehand is suggested when there is uncertainty on the part of the submitter. Liquids should be placed in glass jars. Solids that are wet or damp should also be in glass jars. Dry solids can be stored in either glass or plastic containers. The preference for the outermost packaging of liquids and solids from clandestine laboratories is a plastic bucket with a tight lid. This will keep fumes from surrounding areas and retain liquid, if leakage occurs. A strong box is acceptable, if a plastic bucket is not available.
What does it take to become a Drug Analyst?
This section performs chemical, microscopic and instrumental examinations on a variety of unknown substances in order to extract and identify any controlled substances that are present. These include solids, liquids, pharmaceutical products and plant materials. Required educational background: A bachelor’s degree in chemistry or a closely related field.