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Controlled Substances

Drug evidence samples
Drug evidence samples

The purpose of the Controlled Substances Units in the Forensic Science Division is to determine the identity of unknown substances which are suspected of being controlled. The conclusions of the Forensic Scientists are reported to the submitting police agencies that we serve. The Forensic Scientists in these units may be called upon to testify in a court of law to the conclusions of their analyses.

Drugs and other substances that are considered controlled substances under the Federal Controlled Substances Act are divided into five schedules. Substances are placed in their respective schedules based on whether they have an accepted medical use, their relative abuse potential, scientific knowledge regarding the drug, risk to the public and likelihood of causing dependence when abused. Schedule 1 drugs can be addictive and have no current known medical use. Examples of Schedule 1 drugs include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and marihuana. Michigan laws follow the scheduling that the federal law has established.

Visual examination of drug evidence
Visual examination of drug evidence

Additional challenges have been encountered with recent developments that allow organic chemicals to be synthesized cheaply, combined with the information exchange and marketing possibilities afforded by the Internet. These events have led to new psychoactive substances becoming widely available at an unprecedented pace. Examples are synthetic cannabinoids, commonly referred to as "K2" or "Spice" and synthetic cathinones which can be commonly referred to as "bath salts". These drugs can be classified in Schedule 1. There is no established medical use, can be addictive and very little to no research has been conducted on long term effects to the user.

The Michigan State Police Forensic Laboratories utilize various techniques for the identification of unknown substances submitted by law enforcement. Some of the techniques used for the analysis of suspected drug samples include microscopy and crystal identification. Other instrumental techniques available for use are mass spectrometry, infrared spectrometry and gas chromatography. The Forensic Scientists have access to national databases that can search and compare the unknown spectra collected from case evidence to known reference spectral data. Our laboratories require a minimum of two uncorrelated techniques prior to reporting a confirmation of the identity of an unknown substance.