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IUPUI scientist developing new “rapid” drug screening process

INDIANAPOLIS , Ind -- A scientist at IUPUI says he’s developing a new method to screen for drugs like Fentanyl or synthetic marijuana.

Nick Manicke, an associate professor at the School of Science, says drugs like Fentanyl or synthetic marijuana often don’t show up in hospital urine analysis drug tests, which are more suited to recognize drugs like Heroin or Methamphetamine.

Manicke says his method uses cheaper and more sensitive cartridges to test a patient’s blood, and a mass spectrometry process that allows for a much quicker turnaround of drug screens. Through the process, Manicke says toxicologists could retrieve screening data in about a minute, whilst more traditional methods can take around 2 weeks to deliver results.

“Which is an important part of dealing with the problem; both on an individual level for treating the patient, but also more broadly in being able to shape public policy and law enforcement responses around these particular drugs that are causing a problem,” Manicke said.

Dr. Daniel Rusyniak, the medical director for the Poison Center at IU Health is also working on the project with Manicke. He says the process could potentially affect the way hospitals treat overdoses, providing quick and valuable information for overdose patients.

“Having the ability to get results in real time I think has huge potential to change the way we take care of these patients. If you think it’s maybe an overdose and they’re not responsive and you get back and answer pretty quickly that says they’ve got Fentanyl in their bloodstream that might fit very well. Or more importantly if they have nothing in their blood stream, you’d know you’d need to look for something else,” Rusyniak said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse is currently funding the team’s research with a two-year, $410,000 grant. Manicke says it could be at least “a few years” before the development makes its way into hospitals.