Methamphetamine is a psychoactive drug that has stimulating effects on the central nervous system. It is used as a recreational drug and sometimes as a second-line treatment for obesity or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is taken through injections or by smoking.

However, it is classified as a class A drug in the United Kingdom, and its recreational use is criminalized in many countries throughout the world, including India. Although it is an illegal drug, people still deal with it. However, one barrier for law enforcement in tackling methamphetamine is the difficulty in detecting low concentrations of methamphetamine residues on surfaces, stymieing any forensic investigation.

Recently research conducted with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), New Zealand, analyses the retention of methamphetamine residues on different surfaces. The study was done in New Zealand, where methamphetamine is an illegal drug. The study notes that many concerns have been raised over the presence of methamphetamine contamination in households. 

A new paper published in Forensic Science International aims to address this issue by analyzing the contamination levels on household surfaces resulting from smoked methamphetamine. Salomé Nicolle, a former MSc Forensic Science student who has been a key part of this study, worked with the colleagues of ESR in New Zealand.

They conducted smoking simulations on different household surfaces including acrylic, metal, plaster, tile, and wood surfaces. Results found that acrylic surfaces retained the most methamphetamine, while tile surfaces retained the least.

By observing the results, the authors were able to demonstrate that the retention of methamphetamine is dependent on the material of the surface. The data collected also showed a correlation between the amount of methamphetamine smoked and the residue detected.

Combining the understanding of surface retention of methamphetamine residue and its correlation with smoking could provide a more accurate basis for identifying and calculating how much methamphetamine was smoked from surface residue.

Forensic analysis techniques were employed in the study, which elucidated that, it is possible to detect residues in a wide range, with the minimum contamination detection level almost four times lower than in previous studies. The results indicate that fewer clouds of smoke are needed to identify methamphetamine consumption in a room based on the residue left behind.

The authors were able to detect the volume of amphetamine a by-product of smoking methamphetamine. However, the correlation weakens at lower concentrations, but Nicolle hopes this could be the basis of future research analyzing amphetamine residues as a method for detecting both methamphetamine consumption and production.

She said, “I hope our results have opened a path for more accurate detection of methamphetamine levels and better knowledge of surface type retention. I also hope our research can be a starting point for looking into the correlation between methamphetamine and amphetamine in more detail”.  

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Categories: Toxicology


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