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Air Force Spice testing lab goes full throttle

  • Published
The Air Force Spice Testing Lab  located at the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratoy at Joint Base San-Antonio - Lackland, Texas, became fully operational on Aug. 1, in support of the Air Force's focus on quality Airmen. The new lab establishes a robust urinalysis testing program as part of the Air Force's ongoing efforts to deter use of "spice," the common name for synthetic cannabinoids.

The spice lab is capable of handling 2,500 active-duty Air Force samples per month, with the potential to increase testing to 60,000 samples per year. Equipped with two liquid chromatography/tandem mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS) instruments and a trained staff, the lab is taking over the full spice-testing responsibility from a commercial contract laboratory that previously handled the testing.

Over the past year, the Air Force has made significant strides in the deterrence of spice abuse among its members. Spice compounds are sprayed onto plant matter that is then generally smoked, causing hallucinogenic, psychotic and other harmful and sometimes deadly effects. In July of 2012, the President signed legislation placing 15 of these compounds on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. However, the possession and use of any synthetic compounds, such as spice and other intoxicating substances other than alcohol and tobacco, remain strictly prohibited for Airmen.

In 2011, the Air Force dedicated funds to set-up its own spice lab at the Air Force Drug Testing Laboratory. In November, the spice lab team began developing a high throughput method for processing samples. By March, the team had reduced the analysis time for samples by one-third. Additional manpower further optimized the method, which will allow commanders to send in samples from an entire unit, maximizing the deterrence effect of the program.

The lab will continue to research testing for additional spice compounds as new compounds emerge to ensure the program remains an effective deterrence mechanism for commanders.

The spice lab will also continue to direct samples collected as part of an open law enforcement investigation to the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. Active-duty Air Force commanders can send samples that are either commander-directed or taken as a part of unit, dorm, and gate sweeps to the Air Force Spice Testing Lab for testing.

(Courtesy Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs)