Drug Checking

Drug checking is a harm reduction strategy that allows for the characterization of drug materials (i.e., pills, powders) based on individual drug components, including active drug ingredient(s), adulterant(s), diluent(s), and other substances. There are various tools and technologies used for drug checking, including in-the-field (e.g., fentanyl test strips, FTIR) and in-the-laboratory (e.g., GC-MS, LC-MS) equipment. Drug checking allows individuals to draw scientifically backed opinions and understand complex drug data based on accurate and reliable testing protocols.

The CFSRE is collaborating with public health agencies to collect up-to-date information regarding the drug supply in various cities and communities across the United States. Our leading team of toxicologists and chemists help acquire data and interpret results based on years of knowledge and experience. For more information about our drug checking initiatives, email our program manager at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
November 21, 2022
Drug Checking Quarterly Report (Q3 2022): Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Summary and Key Findings:
  • 219 samples were tested between May and September 2022
  • Fentanyl-xylazine (tranq-dope) proportions varied greatly
  • The average fentanyl purity was 11.7% (range: 0.3-34.8%)
  • The average xylazine purity was 33.8% (range: 0-64.8%)
  • Most dope samples (91%) contained fentanyl and xylazine
  • Synthetic cannabinoids remain dynamic and unpredictable
  • Counterfeit Xanax tablets tested positive for clonazolam
  • Cocaine purity varied greatly (average: 37.8%, range: 0.2-81.8%)
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August 16, 2022
Fentanyl Purity, Potency, & Synthesis: Real-Time Testing of Opioid Drug Products in the United States
A partnership between the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) has been established to accurately assess the drug supply in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. This initiative was established as a comprehensive effort examining various drug materials and drug forms, in both qualitative and quantitative fashions. The information and results reported herein represent a subset of the drug supply and not its entirety.
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June 7, 2022
Drug Checking (Q2 2022): Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Summary and Key Findings:
  • 90 samples were reported between March and early-May 2022
  • Most “heroin”/dope samples contained fentanyl and xylazine
  • Fentanyl-xylazine (tranq-dope) proportions varied greatly
  • para-Fluorofentanyl continues its presence in dope samples
  • Two cocaine (coke) samples contained trace levels of fentanyl, while methamphetamine samples were not adulterated
  • Two counterfeit oxycodone tablets contained fentanyl
  • Tenocyclidine was detected in samples purported to be “PCP”
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March 22, 2022
Drug Checking Report (Q1 2022): Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Summary and Key Findings:
  • 36 samples were reported between January and February 2022
  • Most “heroin” samples contained fentanyl cut with xylazine
  • Fentanyl combinations with methamphetamine and cocaine were observed in this sample set, however, not commonly
  • Cocaine samples were not adulterated in this sample set*
  • para-Fluorofentanyl continues increasing in prevalence, being identified as the primary opioid in some “heroin” samples
  • A counterfeit tablet was found to contain an NPS benzodiazepine
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December 21, 2021
Q4 2021
Summary and Key Findings:
  • 65 samples were reported between September & December 2021
  • Most “heroin” samples contained fentanyl cut with xylazine
  • Cocaine and methamphetamine samples were not adulterated; fentanyl contamination was not observed in this sample set*
  • para-Fluorofentanyl was identified as the primary opioid in some “heroin” samples, once as the only opioid (without fentanyl or heroin)
  • Two “heroin” samples were found to contain fentanyl & stimulants
  • Counterfeit “Xanax” found to contain an NPS benzodiazepine
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September 23, 2021
Q3 2021
Summary and Key Findings:
  • 98 samples were reported between April and August 2021
  • Most “heroin” samples contained fentanyl cut with xylazine; however, heroin was identified in the supply without fentanyl
  • Cocaine and methamphetamine samples were not adulterated; fentanyl contamination was not observed in this sample set*
  • para-Fluorofentanyl continues increasing in prevalence, being identified as the primary opioid in some “heroin” samples
  • Counterfeit “Xanax” found to contain NPS benzodiazepines
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June 2, 2021
Q2 2021
Summary and Key Findings:
  • 91 samples were reported between February and April 2021
  • Most “heroin” samples contained fentanyl cut with xylazine; however, heroin was identified in a few samples
  • Cocaine and methamphetamine samples were not adulterated with other unsuspecting drugs, but fentanyl contamination was observed and determined to be insignificant
  • para-Fluorofentanyl is increasing in prevalence and was identified as the primary opioid in some “heroin” samples
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March 2, 2021
Q1 2021
Summary and Key Findings:
  • Reporting period: November 2020 to February 2021
  • All “heroin” samples contained fentanyl cut with xylazine
  • Counterfeit or disguised pills and tablets contained various unexpected synthetic drugs (e.g., NPS)
  • para-Fluorofentanyl is increasing among the drug supply
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