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Focus Areas

Forensic Chemistry and Toxicology

Conducting sample analyses, developing new methods, and supporting national programs that are essential to the forensics community

Forensic chemistry is a branch of forensic science that focuses on the identification and analysis of drugs and controlled substances for legal and investigative purposes. Forensic toxicology is a specialized field that involves the analysis of biological samples, such as blood, urine, or hair, to determine the presence of drugs, poisons, or other chemical substances and their potential effects on the human body. The forensic chemistry and toxicology landscape is continually advancing with the increase in drug use, caseloads, and the continual development of new drugs, which creates a need for continuous research to establish new approaches for their detection. 

For over a decade, RTI experts have performed research to develop more efficient and novel analytical methods for sample analysis. In recent years, our experts have assisted other RTI groups with projects outside the scope of toxicology, including developing a method for the quantification of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in tap water.

Project Highlights

Differences in Cannabis Impairment and its Measurement Due to Route of Administration

Although cannabis use is legal in some states, cases concerning cannabis impairment are difficult to prosecute because there is currently no scientific standard for determining impairment. To address this, RTI experts led a comprehensive evaluation of acute dose effects for cannabis administered via vaporization and orally to help establish behavioral/performance and toxicological standards for assessing impairment and DUID charges associated with cannabis use.

National Laboratory Certification Program Special Projects

The objective of the National Laboratory Certification Program (NLCP) is to protect the integrity of drug test results for federally regulated workplace programs. Our researchers support the NLCP through research on the analysis of various drugs and metabolites in biological matrices, such as oral fluid and hair. Our research includes ensuring reliability of testing procedures for workplace drug testing, studying the effects of contamination and adulteration of drug test results, and investigating unique metabolites.

National Forensic Laboratory Information System

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) is a program of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Diversion Control Division. NFLIS systematically collects data on drugs identified by the nation’s forensic laboratories. A diverse and multidisciplinary group of RTI experts work together to maintain and enhance the NFLIS program at the direction of DEA. RTI staff with expertise in forensic chemistry and toxicology review data incoming to the NFLIS database and help prepare annual, midyear, and special reports. They also distribute a periodic update of all newly reported substances and maintain an online NFLIS substance list to provide timely information to the forensics community. This program is important to the DEA and the community in understanding state, local, and regional drug trends.