Deakin forensic chemists join fight against illegal drugs

15 January 2014

Researchers are developing increasingly sophisticated techniques to trace the synthetic pathways of illegal drugs.

A recent spate of incidents has drawn attention to the world of illegal drugs, where new, dangerous cocktails and on-line purchasing have added to the risks of illegal drug taking.

Research being undertaken by Deakin forensic chemists could well play a key role in helping to limit illegal drug production, through sophisticated analysis and tracking processes.

Forensic Chemistry PhD student Luke Andrighetto is currently conducting research into tracing the synthetic pathways of illegal drugs. The quality of his work was acknowledged with the awarding of first prize for his poster on “Chemical Mapping of Synthetic Routes of Illicit Drug Manufacturing” at the 2013 Royal Australian Chemical Institute conference on Analytical and Environmental Chemistry, held in Canberra in December.

Also at the conference, Deakin Chemistry Honours student Niki Burns received second prize for her poster, entitled "Synthetic Cannabinoids: Separation and Detection".

Professor Neil Barnett, from Deakin’s Centre for Chemistry and Biotechnology, said that the award success reflects the quality of Deakin’s research in forensic chemistry. “Luke’s research, particularly, is likely to have a real effect on the fight against illegal drugs,” Professor Barnett said.

Mr Andrighetto is conducting his research in a joint program with Deakin and the Victorian Police Forensic Services Centre. The aim of his research is to more accurately identify how criminals are making drugs, and then to use this knowledge to monitor and restrict the use of some of the precursors (starting materials) used to make drugs, thus helping to limit illegal drug production.

“From a drug sample at a crime scene, we can identify the impurities from characteristic pathways, and track the origins of the drugs,” said Mr Andrighetto.

PhD student Luke Andrighetto PhD student Luke Andrighetto received first prize for his research poster on tracing illegal drugs.

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