Major Medical Breakthrough in War on Drugs

Deb Withers

New rapid drug screening technique paves way for faster treatment of patients with drug conditions

New high speed drug testing technique detects greater range of drugs more quickly for emergency hospital treatment

The line between Silent Witness and the real CSI has just become finer with the introduction of rapid toxicology testing of 327 drugs at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

A major advance in the detection of drug related deaths unveiled today by the Attorney General Jill Hennessy at the international renowned forensic medical institute could also help to prevent drug deaths and save lives.

The new rapid screening technique to detect drugs in people who have died could be used to treat patients more quickly in emergency department settings who are suffering from potentially fatal drug illness, including young people who have taken drugs at Summer Festivals.

“This heralds a major breakthrough in our detection of fatal drugs, and provides a much needed new treatment option to curb the death toll from drugs,” said Professor Noel Woodford, Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine.

“Not only does this state of the art process enable rapid detection of drugs in deceased individuals and drugged drivers but also provides the platform for drug harm research and death prevention,” Professor Woodford said.

Attorney General Jill Hennessy said the new technique will further enhance Victoria’s ability to deal with illegal drug abuse, recognised by world leading forensic experts and relied upon internationally by agencies seeking to increase their drug detection capacity.

“While the abuse of prescription and illicit drugs causeimmeasurable harm in the community, this new technique dramatically increases the speed in which drugs can be detected,” she said.

“The application of the VIFM rapid toxicology testing service for clinical cases has the potential to improve the management of drug-affected patients requiring urgent medical treatment,” Ms Hennessy said.

This technique has greatly reduced turnaround times – in some cases to around four hours – and has allowed for rapid same-day analysis results and is revolutionizing routine overnight testing and reducing test to CSI speeds.

This rapid toxicological technique is used in conjunction with other investigative processes such as full-body CT imaging, review of case circumstances and medical histories to provide an efficient death investigation process.

The new drug screening technique was announced during a visit to the institute by Victorian Attorney General Jill Hennessy, who unveiled a ground breaking new social media web series called Afterlife.

The series shines a light on the work of highly trained coronial and forensic services staff involved investigating complex cases and causes of death including from dangerous drugs, and the processes and people involved in solving and recording such cases which can help to save lives.

The Victorian institute of Forensic Medicine provides extensive drug testing for the State Coroner, Victoria Police and other agencies.

/Public Release.