Fentanyl Degradation In Syringes Obtained From IV Drug Users in Washington, D.C.




Montalvo Vargo, Shayla

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Considering the continued opioid epidemic, it is important to understand the local drug trends to support public health initiatives. In 2020, the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) within the D.C. Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS) established a needle-exchange program to monitor local intravenous (IV) drug trends. The syringes are collected anonymously from various programs throughout the District and are analyzed in the lab for the presence of controlled dangerous substances (CDS). In addition to identifying the CDS qualitatively, there is also forensic interest in determining the degradation of specific drugs in syringes over time. Presented in this study is a timeline of fentanyl stability and other various adulterants such as heroin, etizolam and xylazine that are commonly found in combination with fentanyl in syringes from the D.C. needle-exchange program. Polypropylene syringes were conditioned to mimic used syringes among intravenous drug users in D.C. and subsequently analyzed for drug residue after 28 days. The method followed in this study consisted in the detection of unknown quantities of the target drugs via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. This proved to be successful in the identification of degraded compounds as well as the quantification of the specific drugs over a tracked period of time. Data gathered from this study supported the efforts of the D.C. PHL Forensic Chemistry Unit (FCU) in the needle-exchange program by providing an accurate timeline for storage protocols and the optimal timeframe for drug analysis.



Fentanyl, Syringes