The drug chemistry section of the forensic laboratory analyzes evidence seized in the enforcement of state and federal laws. The drug chemists qualitatively identify controlled substances within the evidence submitted to them. The evidence submitted comes from various law enforcement agencies in Allegheny County including the Medical Examiners Office and various drug task forces.
Once the substance is identified along with assignment of being controlled or non-controlled, a report of findings is issued to the submitting agency. The report is required for continuance of the case through the court system. The drug chemist may also then be called on as an expert witness to a particular case he or she has done.
The drug chemistry section, after performing various screening/presumptive tests, utilizes state-of-the-art instrumentation such as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to identify the substances present.
Recently, drug chemists have become active in the investigation and seizure of clandestine drug labs in the area. The chemist serves as a scientific advisor and is also responsible for dismantling the suspected lab and securing evidence for further analyses. Expert testimony is also provided on the actual and theoretical methods used to manufacture the drugs clandestinely.
Each year approximately 6,000 cases of suspected controlled substances are submitted to the forensic lab for analysis. The majority of these cases are concluded to be cocaine base (crack), heroin, and marijuana.
Chemists within this section participate in various proficiency programs and have also been published on new findings in the field in Microgram (a publication of the Drug Enforcement Agency).