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Microcrystal Tests for Illicit Drugs and Diverted Pharmaceuticals (1725)

“The course provides an excellent basis for microchemical testing of illicit drugs, which I use on about 95% of my cases.” — M.B.

“I became more confident in performing tests and designing training modules. These microcrystal tests will help reduce our backlog and turnaround time.” — A.H.


Course schedule: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Monday – Thursday, and 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Friday.

This course teaches basic and advanced microscopical techniques, including microcrystal tests from McCrone Research Institute’s publication, A Modern Compendium of Microcrystal Tests for Illicit Drugs and Diverted Pharmaceuticals. It will emphasize the methods used in polarized light microscopy and optical crystallography, allowing the microscopist to recognize and identify specific microcrystals formed in the presence of suspected drugs.

Major drug categories are covered, including narcotics, depressants, hallucinogens and stimulants. Street samples and pharmaceuticals, in addition to non-traditional delivery devices and extended-release formulations, will be available for microscopical analyses. Practical applications, pros and cons of microcrystal tests, interferences, limits of detection, isomer discrimination and sensitivity are illustrated. Techniques of small particle manipulation comprise a small component of this course.

Prerequisite: course 1201 or equivalent

Day 1
• Introduction
• Review of Köhler illumination, optical crystallography, crossed-polar techniques, small particle handling, principles of microcrystal analyses, use of microcrystal reference texts, and reagent formulation shorthand

Day 2
• Microcrystal tests of illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals: narcotics, stimulants, and hallucinogens
• Differentiation of selected benzodiazepines

Day 3
• Microcrystal tests of selected illicit drugs and pharmaceuticals
• Analysis of cocaine, including common adulterants and excipients
• Isomer determination of amphetamine

Day 4
Microcrystal tests and extraction procedures: microscale extractions for drugs in various formulations, including tablets, oral solutions, and transdermal patches

Day 5
Unknowns, discussion of practical applications and limitations, suggestions for further work

Note: Students are required to be employed as a microscopist or trace/physical evidence analyst, or hold a directly related position in a U.S. state or local forensic crime laboratory.