U.S. Lab, Air Force Seek Better Drug Tests

WASHINGTON, Sept. 17 (UPI) — A U.S. Department of Energy lab and a U.S. Air Force medical wing are joining forces to develop better tests for illicit drug use and abuse, officials say.

Researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Air Force’s 59th Medical Wing say they’re not only looking for a better indicator of current or past use, but they’d like to be able to identify people prone to abusing drugs in the first place, a PNNL release said Friday.

Funded by the Department of Defense, the two-year study will lay the foundation for future work to determine who might be susceptible to hydrocodone, the release said.

Research will map out drug breakdown products, proteins and other compounds that healthy bodies make in response to the prescription painkiller.

Hydrocodone is one of the most abused drugs in the United States. Its use, abuse and addictive potential pose special concern for the armed forces, whose members suffer trauma more often than the average civilian.

“We want to enhance the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of drug addiction. Our military deserves the best care we can give them,” Lt. Col. Dr. Vikhyat Bebarta, a research physician in the 59th Medical Wing, said.

The results will likely extend beyond the military.

“Any tools for drug addiction that come out of this study could also be used by the general public,” PNNL biochemist Josh Adkins said.

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