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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

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Posted: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Chemistry-Physics Departmental Seminar Series - 'Cocaine Detection and Quantification: From the Field to the Lab' - November 16

Please join the Chemistry and Physics departments for the seminar "Cocaine Detection and Quantification: From the Field to the Lab," presented by Dominique Boscarino, candidate for the master of science degree in forensic science at Buffalo State, on Thursday, November 16, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in Science and Math Complex 169. All students, faculty, and staff are welcome.

In the United States, cocaine is the second most popular illegal recreational drug. Cocaine can be encountered in multiple forms, including the salt and freebase or “crack” form. Often, cocaine is “cut” with other substances to increase the amount of the drug or even to increase the effects. When law enforcement suspects that a substance in question may be cocaine, preliminary tests are often done in the field to determine a drug's presence. The Scott test, or cobalt thiocyanate test, is the most popular field test to determine the presence of cocaine. This test is performed in three steps, and a specific color change sequence indicates the presence of cocaine. This test is convenient for law enforcement officers, with all the materials often packaged in a single packet; however, there are many concerns about the specificity of the Scott test. Chemists have reported many false positives and false negatives with the current Scott test.

Given the questionable specificity of the Scott test, confirmatory testing using analytical methods is crucial for cocaine determination and quantification. Because both drug samples and human samples can be found in many forms (blood, urine, saliva, hair), multiple instrumental techniques can be used to determine whether a seized sample is cocaine or if an individual used cocaine.

Cocaine can be profiled using the fingerprint region of an FTIR spectrum. This technique can also be used to identify if any adulterants were added to the cocaine. FTIR may also be helpful in distinguishing between the salt form and base form of the cocaine sample.

Additionally, techniques such as liquid phase microextraction (LPME) and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) can be used to identify cocaine samples in human samples, specifically cocaine in hair. Hair is a common source used for drug testing, especially to determine chronic exposure. Unlike the Scott test, analytical techniques such as FTIR and GC-MS will give unquestionable results as to whether a sample contains cocaine, without false positives or false negatives.

Submitted by: Sujit Suwal
Wednesday, November 15, 2017