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electrochemistry in the war on drugs

Real-time electrochemical screening of cocaine in lab and field settings with automatic result generation

This work presents the results of a novel application for the fast on-site screening of cocaine and its main cutting agents in suspicious and confiscated samples. The methodology behind the novel application consists of portable electrochemical detection coupled with a peak recognition algorithm for automated result output generation, validated both in laboratory and field settings.

Currently used field tests, predominantly colorimetric tests, are lacking accuracy, often giving false positive or negative results. This presses the need for alternative approaches to field testing. By combining portable electrochemical approaches with peak recognition algorithms, an accuracy of 98.4% concerning the detection of cocaine was achieved on a set of 374 powder samples.

In addition, the approach was tested on multiple “smuggled,” colored cocaine powders and cocaine mixtures in solid and liquid states, typically in matrices such as charcoal, syrup, and clothing. Despite these attempts to hide cocaine, our approach succeeded in detecting cocaine during on-site screening scenarios.

This feature presents an advantage over colorimetric and optical detection techniques, which can fail with colored sample matrices. This enhanced accuracy on smuggled samples will lead to increased efficiency in confiscation procedures in the field, thus significantly reducing societal economic and safety concerns and highlighting the potential for electrochemical approaches in on-the-spot identification of drugs of abuse.

Full article can be found here.


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