Researchers at the FIU International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI) have zeroed in on a unique component of heroin that could pinpoint where it was grown, giving authorities a new tool to potentially disrupt the nation’s opioid crisis.
“The DEA wanted to know specifically whether elemental analysis could determine where heroin was coming from,” said Joshua DeBord, a chemistry Ph.D. student at FIU who is the co-author of a recent study validating the effectiveness of the new method. “It’s helpful for them to develop intelligence from heroin that is seized.”
Heroin is one part of the opioid epidemic gripping the nation, claiming almost 13,000 lives in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There are four areas known for producing heroin – Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia, and Southwest Asia. If drug enforcement agents can determine where heroin entering the United States is manufactured, they can better target domestic and foreign law enforcement efforts.