When you hear about drug testing, there are two ways that can be taken. The first is testing a person for drugs, usually done by police or a hospital after an overdose or violent outburst (if taken into custody). The second way is an integral part in harm prevention that actually refers to testing the drugs themselves to see if they are what you were told they were when you purchased them.
The second way is what is on focus here, as researchers at the University of Southern Denmark, the Polytechnic University of Valencia, and the CIBER-BBN in Spain have discovered a new way to detect the active ingredient in ecstasy, MDMA, with greater reliability and speed – and it’s right out of science fiction.
The process is explained as such:
“You start with a ball composed of atoms, which is simple to make. The ball is porous and filled with holes, meaning it can be filled up with smaller molecules. In this method, the ball is filled with molecules that are designed to light up if they are released from the holes. If there is no MDMA (methylenedioxymethamphetamine, the active ingredient in ecstasy) within range, the molecules cannot leave the ball. This is because a kind of arm is installed on the exterior of the ball that can open the ball’s pores once it comes into contact with MDMA and keeps the molecules sealed in until that happens. When the ball ‘opens up,’ so to speak, the luminescent molecules stream out and can be detected by a sensor. The ball only opens up once it comes into contact with MDMA, and it can detect even minuscule concentrations of MDMA.”
Jan O. Jeppesen, a chemistry professor at the University of Southern Denmark, said: “It is our impression that a need exists for more reliable, user-friendly and cheaper tests. What makes our method stand out is that it can detect even small traces.”
If this method of testing could be produced at scale, it could mean easier testing for users and, hopefully, fewer avoidable deaths.