The implementation of ultra-portable devices for analysis of illicit drug in drug checking service of the Canton of Vaud (Switzerland, CH)
In the last decades, several countries have decided to offer drug checking services with the aim of informing the drug users about the content of their products and conveying harm reduction messages, as a way to reduce the risks associated with drugs consumption. Moreover, with this service, it is also possible to study the drug market, especially for synthetic products and new psychoactive substances (NPS), which are generally less seized by the police forces.
In 2021, the Canton of Vaud (Switzerland) has launched a pilot project proposing a new model of drug checking service. For this purpose, it has been decided to mainly use rapid techniques. These have several advantages such as portability, speed of analysis, non-destructive nature, no need to enter in contact with the illicit drugs, ease of use and simple interpretation of results even by non-scientists, as well as lower cost compared to classical techniques. In particular, it has been decided to use near infrared spectrometry (NIR) as the central method.
The University of Lausanne has developed an application called NIRLab which allows the detection and quantification of several drugs with NIR. During the last few years its use has been implemented by different police forces in Switzerland and in other countries in order to test its potential in situ. NIRLab has shown excellent results either in qualitative or quantitative results. In-depth reflection has been carried out in order to translate these analytical results into harm reduction and safer use messages to give to the drugs users. This presentation will describe the strategy developed to cope with real-time results and limitations of the technology deployed.
The objective of this work is therefore to determine the potential of portable real time techniques in drug checking context in order to understand their place in the harm reduction approach.