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Thanks to a federal partnership, the portable detectors will get upgraded drug profiles, and their manufacturers will provide those new drug reference libraries to public safety agencies that already possess a detection device.
First responders arriving at the scene of a drug overdose or police investigating a drug distribution operation often use portable drug detectors to help them identify narcotics like fentanyl, heroin or opioids. The devices, which rely on various spectrometry technologies, can quickly identify the narcotic in question, but rapidly emerging drug variants make it difficult for device manufacturers to keep up.
To ensure the accuracy of those detectors as new drugs are introduced, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate are upgrading the detectors’ reference libraries to include the most recent chemical profiles of a greater number of restricted drugs.
The federal partners are building spectral reference libraries of approximately 50 restricted substances, and PNNL will upgrade the libraries of 17 commercial narcotics detection systems. In return for that updated information, the manufacturers have agreed to provide a free updated version of their drug reference libraries to the federal government, as well as to state, local, tribal and territorial agencies that already possess a detection device.
Sharing the libraries will result in more robust detection capabilities and better protection for users in the field, S&T said in a 2022 fact sheet on the program.
Launched in 2020, S&T’s Fentanyl Reference Spectra project is currently in Phase 2, which focuses on testing and evaluation of the updated systems against standards developed by PNNL and the American Society for Testing and Materials International. S&T and PNNL will publish a public report when Phase 2 winds up this fall. The results will increase confidence in detector results and help responders and law enforcement make more informed purchasing decisions about field detection systems.
“These detection systems are what first responders rely upon in the field,” said Rosanna Anderson, program manager for S&T’s Opioid/Fentanyl Detection Program, in the announcement. “Providing data-backed test and evaluation to independently validate the reliability and accuracy of these systems, while also enhancing their detection capabilities, is a top priority for the Opioid/Fentanyl Detection Program.”