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Identifying Lethal Doses of ‘China Girl,’ ‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Jackpot’—aka Fentanyl

By Nuray Taylor and Diego Laje

Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health tested three portable fentanyl detection technologies to combat the growing number of overdoses. The school evaluated whether the examined devices would recognize two fentanyl analogues. According to their report, all three technologies did.


After speaking with drug users, Johns Hopkins found that most users welcome drug-checking innovations: 86% would test their substances for hidden fentanyl; 84% are concerned about fentanyl; and 70% would change their behavior.

Recent media reports have mentioned several overdose-linked deaths among U.S. Army soldiers.

“We maintain readiness through deterrence efforts, community education and prevention programs. The Army has increased emphasis and awareness of the dangers of fentanyl use with the publication of social media messages and blog posts. The Army Resilience Directorate also developed new Army Substance Abuse Program awareness campaigns that will be fielded Army-wide this summer,” Army spokesperson Heather Hagan told SIGNAL Media in an email.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins’ top technologies to best identify fentanyl in recreational drug users were:

  • BTNX testing strips, manufactured by biotechnology company BTNX Inc., are easy-to-use, cost-effective tests and have the highest sensitivity and lowest limit in detection, according to the university. Along with more complex technologies is spectroscopy, a technique that uses information from light’s interaction with materials to provide information about their composition, structure and physical properties.
  • The Bruker Alpha machine uses Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy and can detect and inform on contents of a drug sample.
  • The TruNarc Handheld Narcotics Analyzer is a Thermo Fisher Scientific technology, which has been available for over 11 years, uses raman spectroscopy to identify and detect narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens and analgesics. “The analyzer can detect more than 530 of the highest priority illicit narcotics in a single test,” a company spokesperson told SIGNAL Media.
  • TruNarc is used globally by public sector law enforcement, fire departments, border control, emergency personnel and other agents, the company said. Notably, the technology is used by the U.S. Postal Service to detect fentanyl trafficked in the mail.