About Drug Chemistry
The scientists in the Drug Chemistry Section analyze items of evidence submitted by law enforcement for the presence or absence of controlled substances. Drug evidence may be in the form of plant material (such as marijuana, synthetic cannabinoids, salvia, and khat), solids (such as methamphetamine, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and pharmaceutical or clandestine tablets), liquids (such as clandestine laboratory samples), or paraphernalia (such as smoking devices, straws, or spoons).
When evidence is submitted to the Drug Chemistry Section at the BCA, an initial physical examination is performed. This physical examination includes examining packaging for seals and a macroscopic examination of the evidence. After initial observations are noted (including a weight, volume and/or unit count), a Drug Chemist typically screens the evidence using chemical spot tests and/or instrumentation. After screening, the scientists in the Drug Chemistry Section use a variety of extractions and instrumentation to confirm the presence or absence of controlled substances as indicated by the preliminary screening tests. Once all examinations are completed, a report is written.
Reports routinely include an amount determination (such as grams, milliliters or units) and a qualitative identification of any controlled substances identified. For federally prosecuted methamphetamine cases, we will also perform quantitative examinations to determine the concentration of methamphetamine. Scientists also provide expert testimony in both state and federal courts.