Scientists develop an instant test for Spice - the synthetic drug that turns ... trends now
It's known as the synthetic street drug that turns users into 'zombies' within minutes – and can even lead to psychosis and death.
Now, scientists at the University of Bath have developed a pocket-sized device that can instantly detect the presence of 'Spice', also known as 'fake weed'.
The small hand-held machine lights up in the presence of the illegal substance if it's been soaked into paper or fabric – a common method for smuggling into prisons.
Experts think the device will be handed out to police officers and prison guards to check for Spice 'within months', once it's been cleared for rollout.
With further engineering, the scientists think it will also able to detect all types of synthetic drugs, which are chemically produced in a lab.
The pocket-sized device, invented by scientists at the University of Bath, lights up in the presence of illegal drugs soaked into paper or fabric. The machine detects Spice with 95 per cent accuracy, according to results
The device works by detecting the fluorescent properties that make up the core part of the synthetic cannabinoid molecule.
When the device touches a material that is suspected to contain absorbed Spice, it first identifies the material it’s on and then tests for the presence of Spice.
An ‘alarm’ for Spice shows up as a glowing ring of LEDs, visible to the operator to alert them to the presence of the substance.
The greater the concentration of Spice, the brighter the LEDs glow.
Scientists at the University of Bath have described their invention in a paper published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
The machine detects Spice with 95 per cent accuracy, according to their results.
'Our device is truly ground-breaking,' Professor Christopher Pudney who led the research at the university's Department of Life Sciences.
'It's battery-operated, ultra-portable, low-cost and gives instant results that anyone can interpret.'
Spice – which was made illegal in the UK in 2016 – can be fatal and often causes severe side effects, including psychosis, stroke and seizures.
The common street drug particularly causes harm among homeless communities, but it's also routinely smuggled into prisons.
In many cases, Spice use has proved lethal – for users both in and out of jail.
The substance was involved in almost half of non-natural deaths between 2015 and 2020 in English and Welsh prisons, according to a recent report from Middlesex University.
Spice takes the form of the liquid and can be sprayed on plant material that's smoked – giving a similar experience to using real marijuana.
But when it is smuggled into prisons it tends to be in its pure liquid form, soaked into paper or fabric such as clothing.
The new device works by detecting the