Statewide > CrimeLab > Chemistry > Controlled Substances

Controlled Substances

The Controlled Substances Section analyzes evidence submitted by law enforcement agencies for the presence or absence of substances controlled under Alaska Statutes.   A list of these substances can be found on the Alaska State Legislature website under Title 11(Criminal Law), Chapter 71 (Controlled Substances).   When possible, analysis will also include measuring the weight of the material submitted.  Quantitative analysis (i.e. determining the percent purity of substances identified) is not performed.

Processing of Evidence by the Controlled Substances Section
After documenting what the evidence looks like and obtaining a weight of the item to be tested, the analyst will remove at least two separate samples of the material for testing.  The total amount of material removed is usually around a few milligrams.  These samples are tested separately using differing analytical techniques.  The results of these tests must point to the same conclusion before a substance is identified.  A confirmatory test called gas chromatography mass spectrometry is always one of the analytical techniques used. 

Does the Controlled Substances Section test evidence from suspected clandestine laboratories? 
The section can currently test for organic compounds such as precursor chemicals (e.g. pseudoephedrine) and final product (e.g. methamphetamine) but it cannot test for inorganic chemicals (e.g. iodine and red phosphorus) or solvents.
How did the lab choose which items to test?
At a minimum, routine analysis will include one item of a suspected controlled substance per defendant, per collection date.  Items with weighable quantities will be selected before items with residue quantities.  Evidence containing syringes will only be tested if results from all other items submitted are negative and only when the syringe contains a visible volume of liquid deemed by the analyst to be of testable quantity.  Additional items may be analyzed if:

  • No controlled substance is identified in the first item.
  • The weight or count (whichever is reached first) is near a legal threshold and there is a potential that testing of addition items will lead to exceeding that threshold.
  • The physical characteristics or accompanying documentation of other items lead the analyst to suspect that a controlled substance of a different schedule may be present.
If during the pretrial process it becomes apparent that items not tested will require testing then, upon re-submission, these items will receive top priority at the laboratory.
Why does the report say “No Controlled Substances per Alaska Statutes Detected”? 
Two possibilities for why this occurred are:
  • No substances were detected with our testing protocols.
  • All substances indicated during testing were not controlled and therefore not confirmed or reported.  This does not necessarily mean that no psychoactive substances were present.

Please contact the analyst whose name is listed on the bottom of the report if you would like more information.

Why does the report say “Quantity Insufficient for Analysis”?
In the analyst’s opinion, there is not enough substance present to allow for testing of two samples using current protocols.

What does “weight below reporting limit” mean?
This means that the substance was weighed on a laboratory balance but the reading was below 0.10 gram.   The statement only relates to the weight of the substance, not its identification. 

Why does the laboratory report not agree with my field test results?
While field tests can be useful during an investigation, they can also produce false positives and negatives.  The laboratory utilizes a confirmatory test called mass spectrometry that can identify the exact chemicals present in a sample.  Because field tests are destructive, the laboratory discourages their use when limited sample is present (e.g. drug paraphernalia).  If a field test is performed, do not submit the used kit to the lab. 

The Controlled Substances Manual is located in a tab under the Quality Assurance section of the webpage. They can be accessed by clicking here.

  • Different substances should be packaged and labeled as individual items of evidence.   
  • Evidence must be packaged in an outer container that is 5” X 7” or larger.
  • Small objects (such as a "rock" of cocaine) may become lost or crushed in a large bag.  They should be packaged in a small container and then placed in a larger outer container.
  • A representative sample from larger items of evidence can be submitted to the lab for testing.   When doing so, ensure that the amount submitted is sufficient for testing and it is clearly designated as a representative sample of a larger amount.
  • Inform the laboratory if any submitted items have been recovered from a body cavity and mark the evidence with a biohazard warning label or symbol.
  • Gloves should be used when handling drug evidence.
Plant Material
  • Ensure that the material is dry before it is packaged.
  • Package the material in a breathable container such as a paper bag or envelope.
  • Dirt, growing media, and plant containers should not be submitted.
  • Package sharp items such as razor blades, knives, and syringes inside a puncture proof container.
  • Items that have the potential to break such as glass pipes should also be packaged inside a puncture proof container.
  • Transfer the contents of a syringe into a vial and only submit the vial to the lab.  Transferring syringe contents as soon as possible will reduce the potential for liquid loss, liquid evaporation, and needle clogging.  The laboratory will provide vials to law enforcement agencies upon request.