Press release

New state-of-the-art HSE drug trends laboratory opens

A new state-of-the-art HSE Emerging Drug Trend laboratory opened today at the National Drug Treatment Centre (NDTC), Dublin.  The laboratory will analyse drug contents, purity and potency, enhancing the HSE’s ability to monitor and respond to new drug trends and market changes to protect and support the health of people who may choose to use drugs.

The new lab utilises the latest forensic techniques and technology including:

  • a gas chromatography-mass spectrometer used to analyse different substances within a sample
  • a mobile FT-IR spectrometer to identify the composition of samples, ensuring precise and reliable testing results

Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GC–MS) is an analytical method that combines the features of gas-chromatography and mass spectrometry to identify different substances within a sample. It produces a mass spectrum of the compound the fragmentation pattern of which (the mass spectrum) is specific to that compound.  It is considered to be the gold-standard in forensic drug analysis.

Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) is a technique used to obtain an infrared spectrum of a substance.  The spectrum obtained is like a fingerprint for the compound analysed. This technique lends itself to portability and is used in the field by various types of organisations including customs, police and in festival drug checking.

The lab is fully staffed to ensure efficient operation and accurate results. The mobile FT-IR technology has already been successfully used by the National Drug Treatment Centre laboratory as part of the HSE Safer Nightlife programme to identify harmful high strength substances through the ‘back of house’ drug checking service at festivals.

Officially opening the new laboratory, Colm Burke TD., Minister of State with special responsibility for Public Health, Wellbeing and the National Drugs Strategy said: “The landscape of drug use in Ireland and Europe is rapidly evolving, presenting new challenges to public health.  It is vital that we increase our preparedness to identify and react to these new threats. This new laboratory, which was funded by the Department of Health, will help to protect the health and safety of those who use illicit substances. It will also enhance Ireland’s contribution to the remit of the new EU Drugs Agency to foster information exchange on new trends and developments in Europe.

“I’m very pleased to officially open this laboratory which will facilitate enhanced monitoring and response to new drug trends. I congratulate all involved and look forward to seeing this technology in action as part of the HSE’s Safer Nightlife Programme this summer.”

Bill Ebbitt, General Manager, HSE at the National Drug Treatment Centre, said: “This new lab means we can quickly and accurately identify dangerous substances in drug samples and detect emerging drug trends. Understanding what's happening in real-time allows us to offer relevant, effective support to people who use drugs and healthcare professionals, making a significant difference in people's lives.”

The NDTC laboratory adheres to the highest standards of testing quality and reliability.

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