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Idaho State Police lab faces heroin testing backlog

Discarded syringes  lie near near train tracks in Philadelphia, the site of an open-air heroin market, on  July 31. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
Discarded syringes lie near near train tracks in Philadelphia, the site of an open-air heroin market, on July 31. (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

NAMPA, Idaho – Forensic scientists with the Idaho State Police are struggling to keep up with the growing caseload of evidence waiting to be tested for heroin and other opioids.

ISP scientist Corinna Owsley tells the Idaho Press-Tribune that each drug analyst with the agency does about 90 cases a month. In August, the lab had just two drug analysts on staff, and they received 378 cases.

Meanwhile, the risks inherent in drug testing are growing. That’s because heroin is sometimes combined with fentanyl, a drug that can be absorbed through the skin and that can cause fatal overdoses.

Owsley says the lab now keeps a couple of doses of the overdose-reversal drug Narcan on hand in case an analyst is accidentally exposed to fentanyl.

Owsley said the department recently added a third drug analyst, but it’s too soon to tell how much that will help to alleviate the backlog of drug testing.


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