Raman spectroscopy helps US police keep drugs off the streets

Share this on social media:

The United States law enforcement agency has been using Raman spectroscopy to help keep illegal drugs off the streets. In late September, police were able to stop several large-scale drug manufacturing operations in Boston, Massachusetts with help from handheld Raman devices.

Using the instruments, officers could identify the different chemicals as well cutting agents in street drug samples, allowing them to gather information on the manufacturing processes and recognise regional trends in the US drug market.

The TacticID-N produced by B&W Tek was used by both US state and local police departments for on-scene identification of various Percocet and cutting agent pills as part of a large scale illegal drug manufacturing investigation.

The first case involved an operation producing illegal Percocet pills with the intent of distribution on a large scale. The Percocet 30mg tablets were being cut and mixed with common cutting agents such as acetaminophen and baby powder, re-cut, re-formed and illegally sold as prescription grade name-brand Percocet tablets. The Raman spectrometer was used to identify the pills containing Percocet and which cutting agents were in each pill.

The second case involved a raid of a facility manufacturing Oxymorphone tablets­ (a prescription pain killer) mixed with Tylenol, an over-the-counter painkiller. The narcotics pills were being cleverly mixed with Tylenol tablets and distributed using Tylenol branded containers. Only some of the containers contained the narcotic tablets, while the others contained just Tylenol tablets as a means to mask the operation.

The spectrometer was used in over 50 identifications to sort which containers were pure Tylenol and which contained the Oxymorphone mixed tablets.

The TacticID-N features a chemometric mixture analysis capable of detecting up to 10 components of a mixed street sample. Because the instrument was able to not only identify the tablets containing Percocet and Oxymorphone, but also all of the cutting agents present, law enforcement personnel were able to idenitfy the manufacturing processes used by the illegal operations. This mixture analysis information allows federal agencies to gather manufacturing trends on a regional level, and by extent, the larger north east US drug market.

Related articles

White paper: Using the full spectrum for Raman, from UV to NIR

Device that screens sealed liquids in airports up for UK engineering award

A safer way to fly: Optical technologies are being tested that could make air travel safer, while at the same time easing the security regulations at airports

Further Information