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Colonel Adel Al Mazmi, Director-General of the Criminal Laboratory Department at Sharjah Police. Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

Sharjah: Sharjah Police’s forensic laboratory has achieved success in detecting new types of synthetic drugs within five minutes, thanks to the lab’s qualified cadres and its latest technical equipment, a senior official has told Gulf News.

Colonel Adel Ahmad Al Mazmi, Acting Head of The Criminal Laboratory Department of Sharjah Police, said the capacity of previous devices was 80 samples and it took time to run tests. Now, with the latest equipment, 300 samples can be tested together, with accurate and clear results obtained within an hour.

Col Al Mazmi added that the laboratory’sChemical and Toxic Analysis Branch and its three units receive seized drugs from various security agencies, detect their chemical compounds and indicate what they are,determine their weight and label them as narcotic substances or psychotropic substances, or toxic or harmful, or whether they have a role in an incident related to a criminal case.

Col Al Mazmi pointed out the types of seizures received by the laboratory includes tablets, capsules, powders, liquids, solids, herbal materials, toxic gases, fire remnants, alcoholic and petroleum materials, precious metals, explosive materials, fireworks, pesticides, and toxic substances, among others.

Man-made cannabis

As reported by Gulf News, Sharjah Police recently discovered two new types of synthetic drugs that are twice as potent as naturally occurring cannabis, after finding them hidden inside packaging for cosmetics. The potentially-lethal man-made drugs were smuggled into the country inside bottles of cosmetic products in the possession of a passenger at Sharjah Airport.

The seizure took place in September 2022 and legal action has been taken against the passenger.

Earlier, in February 2022, Sharjah Police had identified four new types of the ‘Spice’ drug.

Col Al Mazmi said: “The achievement in tracking the transformational processes in the field of narcotic substances comes as a result of the research efforts made by experts and technicians in the criminal laboratory department, taking advantage of modern and advanced devices owned by the department, where two type of manufactured cannabinoids were discovered recently.”

According to Col Al Mazmi, the department is the first crime lab in the UAE to be able to identify what these new types of drugs are, and the manufacturing methods used by the peddlers. The new drugs have been listed in an updated database to keep pace with the rapid development in the world of manufacturing and promoting narcotic substances, he added.

“Manufactured cannabinoids are synthetic compounds that can be mixed in secret laboratories. It has the same effect as cannabis, but it exceeds the effect of cannabis by 80 to 100 per cent, and its use leads to death. We affirm the readiness of the forensic laboratory in Sharjah in combating crime and drug trafficking, and dealing with developments in the field of the illegal drug industry and the different ways it is spread among the youth,” Col Al Mazmi said.

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Dr Taj Elsie Abbas, a chemical analysis expert with Sharjah Police forensic laboratory. Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

‘Endless challenge’

Meanwhile , Dr Taj Elsie Abbas, a chemical analysis expert with Sharjah Police forensic laboratory, told Gulf News that forensic experts face “an endless challenge” in the war on drugs as criminals use increasingly sophisticated techniques. However, he added, Sharjah Police is keeping abreast of new methods in detecting drug and uncovering crime.

Dr Abbas said the chemical structure of synthetic cannabinoids can easily be modified and by changing one element, different derivatives from the same skeleton can be produced. He added that chemists working with drug gangs can make new strains of synthetic drugs through simple changes to the drug’s chemical structure.

The mind-altering substances can be made into liquid form and can be used in e-cigarettes and other devices. They can also be dried or transformed into gas.

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A Sharjah Police staffer working on the analysis of synthetic drugs. Image Credit: Aghaddir Ali/Gulf News

Synthetic cannabis was first manufactured in the 1960s for scientific research purposes by universities and pharmaceutical companies, but it did not achieve the desired results and the research stopped. It reappeared again in 2004, when it sold as “air fresheners”, after melting it and spraying it on some aromatic herbs.

Powerful synthetic cannabis can have fatal consequences, with other serious side effects including rapid heart rate, anxiety and agitation, paranoia and hallucinations, seizures and convulsions, and short-term memory loss.

Dr Abbas said: “Users think if they take more, the impact will last longer, that’s why death rates [from overdose] among users of these substances are very high.”

Drugs in eye-drops

The Sharjah Police Forensic Laboratory is also said to be first laboratory in the country to provide a detailed study on the phenomenon of the misuse of eye-drops.

In 2021, Sharjah listed an eye-drop after the force found that it was being overused by some people from 2018 until 2021, based on police statistic. The drops contained an ingredient that gives the same effect of heroin.

Col Al Mazmi said a draft law is under process to include these substances in the latest schedule of the federal law on narcotics and psychotropic substances, pointing out the new listing will help arrest peddlers of these new drugs in the UAE.