Pubdate: Thu, 23 Jul 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK) 
Author: Ed Johnson


Scottish scientists are helping police crack down on drug barons through a
technique which can pinpoint the exact source of illegal narcotics.

A team of forensic scientists at Lothian and Borders Police are perfecting a
method of fingerprinting drugs so they can trace where they were grown.

Researchers believe the results could help customs offidais to monitor the
shipment of heroin, cocaine and cannabis around the world, and cut off
supply at source.

The force's head of forensic science, Dr. Allan Jamieson, said yesterday
that researchers were analysing drug samples with an electron microscope.

Traces of copper, iron and in the soil where drugs grew, passed into the
plant and could be found in the finished product. Dr Jamieson said by
analysing the traces it was possible to biuld up a profile of drug's
structure and its source, helping authorities track down growers; and map
out routes used by suppliers.

Dr Jamieson said: "With any material there is going to be trace
contamination in the manufacturing process.

"Every corner of the world has its own eco-stucture and its own unique
profile of trace elements, so it is not as difficult as it sounds to
pinpoint where came from."

The forensic team is also undertaking research into the toxicology of drugs.

Dr Jamieson explained that tolerance to drugs varied between people, making
it difficult to establish what level of drug taking could prove fatal. By
compiling a database on overdose cases, the team hopes to provide
information which could prove invaluable to doctors and drug agencies trying
to help addicts.

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Checked-by: Melodi Cornett