Forensics lab frustrated by ever-changing synthetic drugs

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Synthetic drugs are posing a costly and time consuming problem for the Marion County Forensics Lab.

For the past two years, forensic scientists at the lab have been swamped with samples of synthetic drugs that keep changing.

“It is very frustrating,” said forensic scientist Pat Bowne. “We’re all trying to keep up with what’s new, what’s next and it’s changing monthly.”

Fox59 got an inside look at how they test those drugs Friday. First, the drug is broken up into a gas and then its chemical makeup is compared to the makeup of a known synthetic drug. That is the only way forensic scientists can prove that the drug is a controlled substance.

However, synthetic drugs keep changing. New drugs appear with different chemical makeups forcing the lab to purchase new standards to compare them to.

“Every time we come across a new synthetic, a new standard has to be purchased,” said Bowen.

One standard can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,200. Last year, the lab spent $6,000 on new standards. Staff fear they will spend even more this year.

Sometimes a standard isn’t even available, so the lab has to wait and that’s causing the prosecutor to wait as well before filing any possible charges.

“It’s time consuming, it’s challenging, it’s a financial burden,” said Bowen. “It’s burdening the lab in many different ways.”

Bowen and her team hope more awareness will decrease the use of these drugs and bring the number of tests down.

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