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The activities of the chemistry section.

Under the direction of Bruce A. Lodge, MCIC, head of the Chemistry Section, scientists are working systematically to identify and synthesize several new types of clandestinely produced designer drugs, Research scientists Arnold W By and Wing-Wah Sy, MCIC, while spending some of their time on forensic organic chemistry research, are also engaged in trying to out-guess clandestine chemists by predicting future trends in illicit substances which might appear on the street. The new customized drugs are not illegal until they can be identified and placed under appropriate legislative control. When one of these drugs is confiscated by police, it is submitted to the Health Protection Branch laboratories for identification. If there is no standard to which the drug can be compared, one must be synthesized as rapidly as possible. Once synthesized, the standards are available to the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs in Vienna, Austria, as well as to sister agencies at home and abroad. The division also supplies commercially unavailable standards, or substances which require importing, to approved researchers in this country.

Much attention has been focused on the field of amphetamine chemistry in recent times, since these substances have enjoyed a resurgence in the clandestine community over the past three or four years. The group has also been active in synthesizing cocaine isomers and congeners, and provides a synthesis service to colleagues in the Bureau of Drug Research.

Drugs listed under the Narcotic Control Act are considered to have some commercial or medical use while those listed under the restricted section Schedule I-1) of the Food and Drugs Act have no approved medical or commercial application. The division has to investigate new designer drugs carefully before placing them under either act to avoid banning those that have legitimate industrial use.

Another group in the section, working under the direction of Michael LeBelle, is concerned with the development of analytical methodology and the analysis of exhibits seized by police forces.

Improved methodology is continuously needed to meet departmental needs. The development of improved more efficient methods of analysis is required to continue to provide analytical services to clients. Gas chromatography and high performance liquid chromatography are routinely applied to new quantitative analytical challenges. Gas chromatography - mass sepectrometry applications are developed for the identification new substances. Recently efforts have been focused on the examination of cocaine, the subject of widespread abuse and enforcement efforts. The identification of the solvents used in the manufacture of the drug and other minor components present in the material sold on the street is invaluable in determining the source of the drug.

The fact that all drug analysis work in this country on substances and dosage forms, including street drugs, is performed by the Department of Health and Welfare is not widely known. The police laboratories themselves conduct analyses of body fluids and related matters of toxicology. More than 60,000 samples were submitted to departmental laboratories last year by police forces across the country.

Two employees of the division are engaged full time in examining substances seized by police forces to determine if they contain drugs controlled under the Food and Drugs Act or the Narcotic Control Act. The commercial availability, in recent years of simpler less expensive mass spectrometers has resulted in significant changes in this type of analysis. The traditional methods of identification using manual isolation techniques and infra red spectroscopy have been almost replaced by the routine application of GC-MS The complexity of the mixtures encountered in street drugs available today demands the application of such sophisticated automated techniques. Most frequently, chemical street drugs are mixed with a wide range of other chemicals used as cutting agents. For example, cocaine sold on the street is often adulterated with local anaesthetics such as lidocaine or benzocaine, other pharmaceuticals such as ephedrine and inert bulking agents such as lactose and mannitol. The nature of other exhibits presents an analytical challenge. The restricted drugs psilocin and psilocybin, tryptamine analogues, must be identified from psilicybe or magic mushroom material. Findings are recorded and a certificate is issued to the police officer, the court and the accused. In a given period, as much as one third of the samples might be mixed with other substances. Certain cutting agents remain popular while others come and go depending on trends in the illegal drug market. Both analysts are periodically subpoenaed to appear in court, occasionally in the United States whenever joint police operations are being conducted.

Samples are occasionally analyzed for health professionals from across the country. Very often such products will have been brought into the country by patients who have travelled abroad specifically to visit foreign clinics for treatment for a variety of chronic conditions, such as arthritis. Other specimens received are traditional Chinese herbal remedies to which occidental prescription drugs are sometimes added, without any mention on the label.

Contract work is also arranged with researchers in Canadian universities for the testing of any of the newer, designer drugs for which little or no information is available in the literature, Such work might involve toxicity, nuero-pharmacology or behavioural studies.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Chemical Institute of Canada
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Title Annotation:Canada's Bureau of Drug Research
Author:Lodge, Bruce A.
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:845
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