Controlled Substances

Are there field test kits available for synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones?

There are field tests kits currently marketed that may detect these compounds.  However, due to the large and always increasing number of synthetic compounds these tests will not react with many of the currently seen compounds.  Additionally, as with all field tests, there may be false positives.    To conclusively determine if the item contains a controlled substance, it must be submitted to the crime laboratory for analysis.

Can syringes, drug paraphernalia, and residue items be submitted to the Controlled Substances Unit (CSU) for analysis?

These items may be submitted if they are the only item in the case and/or if their analysis is imperative to the case investigation.  The CSU will work one item per substance type.  If other weighable amounts of controlled substances are present in the case, please do not submit these items.   

Can you detect psilocybin or psilocin in mushroom spores?

No.  Do not submit items suspected to contain mushroom spores or grow media with mycelium.   The laboratory’s ability to detect psilocin or psilocybin is increased if the mushrooms are at least at the pinhead stage.   Harvest and fully dry any mature mushrooms for submission to the laboratory.

How should liquid evidence be packaged?

Use a container appropriate for liquids.  If the original container is sufficient to contain the liquid and prevent any leakage, it may be utilized with additional secondary packaging such as a plastic bag or metal can.   Never put liquids directly into a metal can.  

Should a field test be performed on residue items?

No.  In cases with residual amounts that are required to be analyzed, material should be conserved for laboratory analysis.

Should a field test be performed on suspected fentanyl samples?

There are field test kits marketed for fentanyl.    As with any field test there are false positives and other substances that may lead to confusing results.   The field test marketed as a fentanyl/heroin test   may also give similar results for methamphetamine and fentanyl.   Additionally, many new fentanyl analogs are currently being seen in the Midwest region.  To conclusively determine if a sample contains fentanyl, it should be submitted to the crime laboratory for analysis.

Should pharmaceutical tablets/products be submitted for analysis?

Controlled pharmaceuticals under Wisconsin Statute 961 can be submitted for analysis.   Prescription pharmaceuticals that will be charged under Wisconsin Statute 450 should not be submitted for analysis.  

What if DNA or latent print examination is also needed on the packaging containing the controlled substance items?

The original packaging should be separated and individually packaged prior to submission to the crime laboratory unless it is unreasonable to do so.  For efficient and timely analysis, it is important to place these items in separate containers for submission to each unit.

What should be submitted in a case involving numerous items, large plant grows, etc.?

Please discuss the case with the prosecuting attorney prior to submission and determine which items are necessary for analysis.  Only submit these items.  Consideration should be given to statutory weight limits/plant counts and sampling methods that will lead to a successful prosecution and limit the analytical time required.   With respect to marijuana grows where plants are of sufficient size, it is recommended to sample 1-2 grams of dried plant material from each plant and package separately for submission.   Contact your area CSU with any questions regarding submission of these items.

What special precautions should be taken when handling suspected fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a very potent opioid and accidental exposure could have serious consequences.  Since fentanyl is readily absorbed through the skin, proper protective equipment should be worn such as gloves and masks.   To prevent inhalation, avoid any actions that would cause the sample to become airborne.   Ensure that samples are properly packaged to prevent any leakage.    When submitting suspected fentanyl cases to the laboratory, communicate this information to the evidence specialist during intake and additionally document this information on the transmittal form.   We recommend that your agency have a safety plan in place for accidental exposure to fentanyl.

When should evidence be submitted to the laboratory?

Evidence should be submitted as soon as a pretrial and/or trial date has been set.   This should be at least one month prior to the trial date to allow the laboratory time to complete analysis.  For cases in which results are needed prior to charging or needed for investigational purposes, please submit evidence as soon as possible.

Who should be contacted regarding a suspected clandestine laboratory?

Clandestine laboratories involve many safety hazards and dangers.  Any time a clandestine laboratory, including a “one-pot” methamphetamine lab, is suspected, you should immediately contact your local DCI field office (DCI contact information).  Besides the many safety hazards, failure to properly handle a clandestine laboratory site may violate OSHA and DNR regulations.  Never enter a suspected clandestine laboratory site or handle possible clandestine laboratory chemicals unless you are a certified clandestine laboratory responder.   Clandestine laboratory samples must be rendered safe prior to submission to crime laboratory.

DNA Databank

Are juveniles and those individuals found not guilty by reason of mental defect allowed to be entered in CODIS?


Does a ten print card need to be mailed in with every Buccal Swab Collection kit?

Yes, a ten print card must be collected and/or printed and enclosed within the submission envelope with the form. The ten print cards can either be printed from Live Scan or manually collected.  One ten-print card will be sent (electronically or mail) to the Crime Information Bureau, as is current practice to establish the arrest record, and the second ten-print card will be mailed with the Submission Form to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory.  For arrest events, please ensure the ten-print card taken at arrest is sent to the Crime Information Bureau.

How can I find out if my suspect is in CODIS or has provided a sample to the laboratory?

Call the DNA Databank Unit at 608-266-2031 or via email at DNADatabank@doj.state.wi.us.  We can use the Wisconsin SID number to determine if that individual has provided a sample to the DNA Databank Unit, and if that profile is in CODIS. 

How can I track a ten-print record submitted via live scan?

Contact the AFIS Unit at the Madison Crime Laboratory and provide them with the TCN (Transaction Control Number) for the record in question.  If they are able to locate the record, they will let you know what stage of the process it is in. If no record is found, the record will need to be resubmitted. 

How do I know if the evidence profile(s) in my cold case was entered into CODIS?

Call the analyst that issued the report.  They can verify which profile(s) have been entered into CODIS.  They can verify if profiles are being searched properly, and they can verify if there have been any previous hits to the case’s evidence profile(s).

How do I order Buccal Swab Collection kits?

Buccal swab collection kits, including a postage-paid return envelope, are available at no charge to criminal justice agencies. Beginning March 30, 2015, Wisconsin Department of Administration Document Sales and Distribution Unit will be shipping these kits free of charge. For step by step directions please refer to this form.

How do I receive reimbursement?

Payment will be sent to the submitting agency on an annual basis, typically near the end of July. There is no reimbursement provided for duplicate submissions. 

How do I take a good quality print?

Please see the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory’s guidelines for capturing acceptable fingerprints.


  • If the subject has excessively dry or worn ridges, moisten the fingers using lotion or oils and wipe off any excess residue, this will help make the fingers softer and more pliable. 
  • If the subject has excessive moisture on hands, dry each finger with a cloth or wipe each finger with rubbing alcohol and immediately ink and roll the finger.


How is a WI SID (State Identification Number) acquired for a subject that has no hands?

  1. Submit a standard ten-print card with all available descriptor and charge information, note “Amp” in all finger boxes including plain impression boxes.
  2. Obtain a copy of the subject’s driver’s license or another form of photo ID.
  3. Mail card and a copy of the photo ID to the Crime Information Bureau. They will create a record and a WI SID will be assigned.


How long after submission of a DNA Kit does it take for an offender or arrestee sample to be added to CODIS?

A convicted offender sample is generally entered into the CODIS database within 60 to 90 days upon submission to the DNA Databank Unit.


A violent felony arrest sample cannot be processed until probable cause is established.  Generally, probable cause is not established for at least three months after the sample has been received in the DNA Databank Unit.

How will an individual convicted of a misdemeanor be collected? Who is responsible for this?

The County Sheriff’s office is responsible for the collection. For some counties the court house may have a facility that books and collects DNA samples. If no such facility is available at the courthouse, the individual will be directed to the Sheriff’s Office. Please contact your county Sheriff’s Office to find out what services are offered.

How/when does the DNA flag change to conviction?

A DNA flag is set to conviction when the offender information is entered into ARMS from a Conviction event (misdemeanor or felony).  Alternatively, if you are collecting a qualifying conviction event from an individual with arrest DNA on file, you may contact the DNA Databank Unit via email at DNADatabank@doj.state.wi.us with the conviction event information.  If the conviction event is verified, the flag will be switched to conviction and it may not be necessary to collect an additional sample. 

I have a case that is a sexual assault past the statute of limitations. What’s the purpose of maintaining DNA profiles from this case in CODIS?

If the case is a 1st degree sexual assault [s.940.225 (1)], then the statute of limitations never expires [see s. 939.74 (2) (a) 1].


If the sexual assault case would still be charged as a felony (ex. 2nd and 3rd degree sexual assaults) the 939.74(2d)(c) statute states that if before the 6 years in which the statute of limitations time limit expires, if a DNA profile of a putative perpetrator is entered into CODIS and searched (even if there is not “hit”) then the statute of limitations is in a holding period. The State of Wisconsin can commence prosecution of the person who is the source of the DNA profile for the felony or a crime related to the felony or both  within 12 months after a “hit” in CODIS, or within the applicable time under sub.(1) or (2), whichever is latest.


Additionally, it may be beneficial for prosecutors or parole boards to know if a putative perpetrator has potentially committed additional crimes.


For any questions not answered in this document or if you need further clarification please contact the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory-Madison DNA Databank at (608) 266-2031 or via email at DNADatabank@doj.state.wi.us

If a person’s Criminal History Record indicates that Arrest DNA is on File do I need to collect another sample?

Yes.  You will need to continue collecting a complete Buccal Swab Collection Kit until the Criminal History Record indicates that Conviction DNA is on File.  Alternatively, if you are collecting for a qualifying conviction event, you may contact the DNA Databank Unit via email at DNADatabank@doj.state.wi.us with the conviction event information.  If the conviction event is verified, it may not be necessary to collect an additional sample. 

If a subject will not supply their name at the time of arrest, should the ten-print card be submitted as a John/Jane Doe?

No, first scan and email a copy of the fingerprint card to the AFIS Unit at the Madison Crime Laboratory. The fingerprints will be scanned in and searched in AFIS.  If a match is found, the subject’s name and WI SID (State Identification Number) will be provided to you. If no match is found, the arrest will then be submitted as a John/Jane Doe. 

Is there a way for an agency to submit an electronic fingerprint card to CIB for a person that is consensually providing a DNA sample outside of any other arrest / custody event as the result of a prior obligating offense?

The agency can submit what is referred to as a DNA registration submission using the submission type code of “DS”.  A standard arrest would be a submission type code of “AR”.  There is also a submission code for a probation / parole registration of “PB”.

What does interstate compact mean?

An interstate compact is when somebody transfers probation to Wisconsin from another state.  A ten print card should be submitted to the Crime Information Bureau and can be submitted as a DNA registration using the submission type code of “DS” or a probation / parole registration using the submission type code of “PB”.

What if someone refuses to provide a buccal swab or I am unable to obtain one?

If a buccal swab is unable to be obtained, a blood sample may be collected on the swab provided.

What is a “DNA Flag”?

A DNA Flag indicates the status of a DNA sample submitted for an individual. There are four identifiers on eTIME: 1. No DNA Sample is on File 2.  DNA Collection Needed (Crime Lab Recollect List or Missed Collection Event or SAFE Team) 3.  Arrest DNA Sample is on File 4. Conviction DNA Sample is on File.  These identifiers are populated/controlled behind the scenes by the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory.  The DNA flag will generally be set within 14 days of the laboratory receiving the sample.

What is CODIS, NDIS, SDIS, LDIS, and how are they related?

The DNA Databank is a repository for known DNA profiles of individuals required by Wisconsin State law to provide a sample as well as unknown evidentiary DNA profiles from casework and unknown or missing persons DNA profiles.  The DNA profiles are stored in a computer searchable format providing the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory a powerful tool to assist Law Enforcement with investigative leads. 


The Wisconsin DNA Databank is linked nationally through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  Within this system there are three levels, the Local DNA Index System (LDIS) located in the Madison and Milwaukee Laboratories, the State DNA Index System (SDIS) located for the State of Wisconsin at the Madison Laboratory, and the National DNA Index System (NDIS) monitored by the NDIS custodian at the FBI. 


Once an evidentiary or offender DNA profile is entered into CODIS it is maintained by the CODIS administrators and routinely searched.  The DNA Databank Unit will notify agencies of any significant matches if they occur.  If you have any questions regarding whether an offender DNA profile is in the CODIS database, please contact the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory DNA Databank Unit at 608-266-2031 or via email at DNADatabank@doj.state.wi.us.

What is the ATN?

The ATN is the arrest tracking number.  This can be found in the top left hand corner of the arrest fingerprint card.  This field is only required to be filled out on the new Submission Form at arrest. The arrest tracking number allows the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory to link the DNA collection to that arrest event.  

What is the Crime Lab Recollection List?

The Crime Lab Recollection List was generated by the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory and has been maintained since the inception of the DNA Databank to identify problematic samples in which there was an error during the DNA collection event.  Common collection errors include: unidentifiable prints, no fingerprints, no SID number, and poor quality DNA collection.  If a kit collected by your agency was identified to be collected in error you will be notified by email.

What is the Missed Collection Event?

A missed collection occurs when a person arrested or convicted of a qualifying event has not had their DNA collected.  If your agency fails to collect a sample that was required you will be notified by email.  If this person is still in custody please collect as soon as possible and submit the sample to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory-Madison.

What is the SAFE Team?

The SAFE Team is the Sexual Offender Apprehension and Felony Enforcement Team.  This team provides Wisconsin Citizens information online for all sex offenders registered with the Department of Corrections’ Sex Offender Registry.  Additionally, they add information to the DNA Collection Needed flag if they notice in their investigation that a sex offender did not have his DNA collected.

What NCIC Code should I use for DNA statute 946.52 (Failure to submit biological specimen, class A misdemeanor)?

Upon review of the statutes and NCIC Codes it has been determined that the best fitting NCIC Code for 946.52 is 5099 (Obstruction).  

What should I do with my old Buccal Swab Collection kits?

Old collection kits may be used to collect convicted offender samples only (use the white barcode labels contained within the kit). If an older kit is used, please be sure to use the current submission form available on eTIME, WILENET, or the WSCL forms section

When is an arrest sample destroyed?

An arrest sample may be destroyed after one year has passed if probable cause has not been established for that arrest event and the individual does not owe the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory a sample for a different event.

When taking fingerprint impressions for a DNA Submission form can another finger be used if the index finger cannot be printed due to amputation?

Yes, if the subject has other fingers that can be printed you can print any one of those. Be sure to note above the finger box which of the other fingers were inked.  If all fingers are amputated but a portion of the first joint is present, ink this portion of the finger.

When taking fingerprint impressions on a standard fingerprint card and some or all of the fingers have been amputated, what should be done?

If any or all of the fingers have a portion of the first joint present, ink and capture the available finger, both in the rolled and plain impression boxes.  


If any of the fingers are amputated below the first joint note “Amp” in the appropriate box.


Fingers that are present but are unable to be printed due to injury can be noted in the appropriate finger box (injured, bandages, broken etc).

When using live scan some of our images display ghost/residual prints. How do we avoid this?

Properly maintain equipment at all times: Make sure glass is wiped clean after each rolling and is free of dust, dirt and any residual fingerprint images. Calibrate live scan as needed.

Who can request expungement of a sample?

Only the individual who was collected may request expungement of their own sample. They must fill out an official expungement form and if related to a conviction, the form must be accompanied with a certified copy of the court order reversing, setting aside, or vacating the conviction or adjudication.  The document can be found on WILENET or the WSCL forms section.

Whom do I contact to obtain a copy of a subjects fingerprint card/record?

Contact Crime Information Bureau directly with your questions regarding updating criminal histories by emailing: CIBCriminalHistory@doj.state.wi.us

Whom do I contact to order standard blank fingerprint cards?

Contact Crime Information Bureau directly with your questions regarding blank fingerprint cards by emailing: CIBCriminalHistory@doj.state.wi.us

Why does a suspect standard need to be submitted when the suspect is already in CODIS? Why can’t the profile that is in CODIS be used for comparison?

It is always necessary to submit reference standards from any individuals (suspects, victims, and eliminations) associated with the case.


Offender samples are not stored as stringently as evidence and do not have a chain of custody associated with the sample; therefore, we cannot use them for direct comparisons.  This is why a potential CODIS match to an offender it is treated as an investigative lead and not a confirmation.

Why wasn’t the evidence profile in my case entered into CODIS?

The National DNA Database is managed by the FBI, and laboratories participating in this database need to follow the rules established by the FBI for profile entry.  The FBI requires evidence profiles to:


  • Be from crime scene evidence
  • Be from a potential suspect (i.e. no profiles associated with victims or elimination persons can be entered)
  • Be an item not directly obtained from a suspect or not from an item that likely would contain the suspect’s profile (e.g. a hat located in the suspect’s house).
  • Have inclusionary value (i.e. profile needs to have a statistical association)
  • Have limited potential for coincidental matches (e.g.  low-level, incomplete, and mixture profiles may not be suitable for CODIS entry)

A sample may still have probative value even if it cannot be entered into CODIS.  If you have questions regarding the probative nature of a profile, please contact the analyst that issued the report.


If I know my suspect is in AFIS/NGI, why do I have to provide a fingerprint card or SID#?

Due to the nature of AFIS/NGI and latent prints, even if a record is in the system it may not “hit”. Poor quality, incompletely rolled fingerprint cards may not contain the detail observed in the latent print. Additionally, both latent and standard prints can show signs of movement and distortion which may interfere with them “hitting” in the system. Time and effort can be saved if the analyst can compare the individual before entering them into the system. While the AFIS/NGI is very accurate, it is not as accurate as a trained fingerprint examiner. 

Do you have access to Law Enforcement Officers’ standards?

Law Enforcement Applicants have only been retained in the AFIS since 2010. If you were hired prior to that date, or if you haven't applied for a LEO position since then, your card is not in the system. Please submit standards for any Law Enforcement Personnel who had contact with submitted evidence. 

If the person has a record, do I still need to submit fingerprint/palm prints standards?

Whenever possible, it is best to submit standard fingerprints and palm prints for any suspects, victims, or other individuals who may have been in contact with the item. Even though a person may have an arrest record in the State of Wisconsin, this does not always mean that they have the necessary standards on file for comparison with any unknown prints. Often times, fingerprint cards are missing some areas of friction ridge detail, such as the tips and sides of the fingers, and palm print standards are often not taken.

In what order are cases examined? What if I have a “rush” on a case?

Rush cases, including court dates or court orders, violent crimes against persons (e.g. homicides, sexual assaults), and other high profile cases are considered the highest priorities and will be worked first.  All other cases are examined on a first in, first out basis. Please contact the Crime Laboratory to notify us of any updated information on court dates or reasons that cases need to be expedited.

What are the requirements for submitting digital images of fingerprint or footwear impressions?

The Wisconsin Crime Laboratory Bureau does not accept evidence images submitted via e-mail. The Laboratory will only accept electronic evidence images if they are submitted on an acceptable data-storage medium such as a CD-R or DVD-R.  Images should be scaled, with the scale on the same plane as the impression, the impression should fill the frame, and a tripod should always be used.  Impressions used for comparative analysis should be captured in the highest resolution lossless format available (i.e. RAW or TIF) and the impression should be in focus. All digital images of impressions should be submitted for examination even if the physical evidence is submitted as well. 

What considerations should be taken when submitting items to the Crime Laboratory?

The value (whether monetary or sentimental) of items being submitted for latent processing should be ascertained prior to their submission to the Crime Laboratory. Chemical processes used by the Identification Section can cause permanent damage to electronics, collectibles, antiques, etc. If the evidence was processed by the agency prior to its submission to the Crime Laboratory, notations regarding prior processes performed should be indicated on the Submission Form to assist the laboratory on further processing and preservation. Processing non-porous (i.e. glass or plastic) items with superglue prior to submission can substantially increase the chances of developing suitable latent prints.  In addition, porous (i.e. paper) items should never be processed with fingerprint powders. Submitters should refrain from making marks or notations on items of evidence (i.e. circling impressions) because latent impressions are often invisible to the naked eye and the markings can destroy or obliterate impressions that could have been of value for comparison purposes. 

What does the conclusion “no identification or exclusion effected” mean?

No identification or exclusion means that the examiner is unable to identify or exclude the source of the questioned latent print. This may be due to the quality of the latent print, the quality of the known prints, poorly rolled known standards that do not contain the appropriate area of friction ridge detail for comparison, or if the latent print does not meet the exclusion criteria. A latent print that does not meet the exclusion criteria may be able to be identified if compared to the correct standards.

What information do I need to provide in order for you to obtain a fingerprint/palm print card that is on file for an individual?

In order to obtain fingerprint/palm print standards from the Crime Information Bureau or the FBI, please provide the complete name and date of birth of the individual and a Wisconsin State Identification Number (SID#) and/or an FBI#, if possible.  The Crime Laboratory is not able to acquire cards from other states using their SID#s, so if you cannot get an FBI number, please contact that state and request a comparison quality/certified fingerprint card print-out which can then be submitted to the laboratory. We cannot accept fingerprint cards for comparison via e-mail, however a digital copy of a standard can be submitted on a disk if it is at least 500ppi and in TIF format. 

What is an Unsolved Latent Database Search?

Many latent prints searched through the AFIS/NGI systems will be registered into the unsolved latent databases if they do not “hit” on the initial search.  These prints will automatically continue to be checked against all new sets of known prints as they are entered into the system.  If a “hit” is made and verified due to a subsequent search, a report will be issued to notify the submitter of this new information. Please notify the Crime Laboratory if your case does not need additional analysis and can be deleted from the unsolved latent database.

Why should I submit elimination prints for a case?

Elimination standard prints (both fingers and palms) of anyone who had contact with the evidence should be submitted for comparison whether or not there is a suspect in the case. Providing elimination prints limits the amount of time spent searching victim prints through the AFIS/NGI system.  It also informs the agency if they have any evidence remaining on the case (if the latent prints get excluded to the victim/eliminations, they may then belong to a suspect).  If elimination prints are requested via a report, please provide them to the laboratory. 


How can I ensure that my samples are analyzed in the shortest amount of time possible?

The main things you can do to ensure a shorter turnaround time are to (1) provide all of the necessary information (including correct dates, spelling of names, etc.); (2) communicate with the Toxicology Unit when anything changes or when new information becomes available; and (3) submit your samples to the proper laboratory for your service area.  Specifically, if alcohol analysis will be sufficient as long as the ethanol concentration is greater than 0.08 g/100 mL (or 0.02 g/100 mL or any other concentration), please include that on the evidence transmittal or the paperwork included in the blood kit.  Please ensure that any handwriting on your paperwork is legible and that the requests for analysis are clear.  Occasionally, the Toxicology Unit receives paperwork with ambiguous instructions.  This delays the dissemination of the laboratory report while clarification is sought.  Also, if specific drugs are suspected, please indicate this on the evidence transmittal or on the paperwork in the blood kit.  This information will help the analysts ensure that the type of analysis needed is performed on the sample.  Additionally, If only a small amount of sample is available, having this information will help the analysts direct the analysis in the most informative direction.  Finally, please be aware that the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory in Wausau now performs blood alcohol analysis.  Therefore, if you are within the Wausau service area, please be sure to submit your samples in need of alcohol analysis directly to the Wausau Lab.  Submitting those samples to the Madison Lab instead will delay the turnaround time, as the samples will then need to be routed to the Wausau Lab.

How do I know whether I should send a sample to the Wisconsin Sate Crime Laboratory or to the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene?

The following chart should help clarify this.  Please contact your local Toxicology Unit if you have further questions.  


Submissions: Hygiene Lab vs. Crime Lab


Hygiene Lab

Crime Lab

Driving under the influence (DUI) Type Impaired by alcohol and/or other drugs.  Includes motor vehicle deaths, snowmobiles, motorboats, and ATV’s.


Including great bodily harm, vehicular homicide.



Death Investigations

Suicides & routine death investigations.

Submission is not limited to coroner or medical examiner; WSLH will receive samples in any death investigation.

Death is suspicious and possible felony CHARGES pending.

Probation and Parole Violations

Initial charge must be a MISDEMEANOR.

FEE is required.


Crimes of Violence Domestic Abuse, Drug Facilitated Sexual Assaults, Weapons Charges



Controlled Substance Cases



Biological samples alone are not sufficient for possession charges.

I am a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), and I sometimes perform evaluations for agencies other than my own. How do I go about obtaining a copy of the Confidential Report of Laboratory Findings?

The policy of the Crime Laboratory is to only release information to the submitting agency.  Therefore, the case agent must contact the Crime Laboratory and authorize you to receive a copy of the report.  Please have the case agent contact your local Crime Laboratory for details.

What is a metabolite, and why is it important?

A metabolite is a breakdown product of a drug.  When an individual takes a drug, his/her body wants to break it down so that it can eliminate it.  This breaking down process is called metabolism, and the broken down substance that is produced is called a metabolite.  Metabolites are important for two reasons: (1) some are pharmacologically active, meaning they also cause impairment; and (2) some parent drugs do not last very long in the body, so the presence of a metabolite indicates that the parent drug was used at some point.  An example of the second point is heroin and its primary metabolite, 6-monoacetymorphine (6-MAM).  Heroin is metabolized by the body in minutes after it is injected, so it is rarely seen in a blood sample of a living individual.  The presence of 6-MAM in blood, however, indicates that heroin was used recently.

What is the difference between a confirmation, an identification, and a quantitation?

There is no difference between a confirmation and an identification.  Both terms are used to describe the analytical procedure that investigates the chemical structure and therefore the identity of a drug present in a sample.  In a quantitation, the concentration of a particular drug in a sample is determined.  Many drugs are quantitated by the Toxicology Unit when they are found in blood, plasma, serum, or vitreous humor.  Drugs found in urine samples are currently not quantitated.  Some drugs that are identified or confirmed may not be quantitated if (1) there is no current method for doing so; (2) the drug does not appear to be present in a detrimental amount; (3) the amount of drug present in the sample is outside of the method’s current quantitation range; or (4) the drug is not associated with driving impairment.

What is the difference between a drug screen and a drug confirmation/identification/quantitation?

A drug screen is the first step in testing biological samples for drugs.  At this point, no analytical information has been gathered about what, if any, drugs may be present in the sample.  In an immunoassay drug screen, a sample (blood, urine, vitreous humor, etc.) is generally tested for a standard panel of drugs or classes of drugs.  If the sample shows a significant response to any of these classes of drugs, it then must be confirmed or identified.  An immunoassay screen does not test in enough detail for a drug to be identified or confirmed, so drugs or classes of drugs can only be indicated from this test.  Further work must be done.  On the other hand, screening by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is capable of identifying or confirming a drug.  When GC/MS is used for screening, it can detect a larger number of drugs than the immunoassay screen.  Because of the nature of the technique, it is also possible to confirm or identify a drug that is detected.  Identification/confirmation/quantitation is the second step of drug testing.  Because this technique provides information about the chemical structure of a substance, it is possible to definitively state the specific drug that is present.  For example, if the immunoassay screen indicates that benzodiazepines are present in a blood sample, the identification or confirmation determines that alprazolam is the benzodiazepine that is present.  Quantitation calculates the concentration of alprazolam that is present in the sample.

What is the difference between an indication and an identification/confirmation?

When a drug or class of drugs is indicated, it means that the specific structure of the substance could not be determined.  An identification or confirmation of a drug means that the specific structure of the substance has, in fact, been determined.  A drug can be indicated for different reasons.  The first is that the technique that was used is not capable of determining the specific structure.  An example of this is the immunoassay screening.  This technique is designed only to indicate drugs or classes of drugs; it is not designed to give the specific structure and therefore identity of the substance.  The second reason a drug is indicated could be that, although the technique employed gave enough information to determine the structure of a substance, no reference material was analyzed by the same technique in order to compare to the sample for verification.  The Toxicology Unit will not identify or confirm a substance unless it has first been verified by comparison to a reference material, or standard.

What kinds of blood tubes do you need for alcohol and drug analysis?

For alcohol analysis, the preferred blood tube is one that has a grey stopper or cap.  These tubes contain sodium fluoride, a preservative and potassium oxalate, an anticoagulant.  The blood kits issued by the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene contain this kind of blood tube.  Another kind of blood tube that is acceptable for alcohol analysis is one that has a purple stopper or cap.  It contains EDTA, which acts as an anticoagulant.   For drug analysis, tubes with stoppers or caps of other colors are acceptable, as long as the blood has not formed a large clot in the tube.  Some tubes, such as those with red stoppers or caps, are designed to make the blood clot.  These tubes are generally not useful for drug analysis because the blood is no longer in liquid form.  

Where may I send a sample for analysis of drugs that the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory Toxicology Unit is not able to detect at this time?

Private toxicology laboratories may be able to help you.  Please contact your local Toxicology Unit if you need more information.  

Why are drugs not quantitated in urine samples?

There are a couple of reasons why drugs are not quantitated in urine samples.  The first is that the amount, or volume, of urine can vary widely.  When drugs are quantitated, they are reported as a unit of weight (such as micrograms, or µg) per unit of volume (such as liters, or L).  The volume of blood in an individual is relatively stable.  Barring traumatic injury in which an individual loses a massive amount of blood, an individual is not able to easily alter the volume of blood in his or her body.  An individual can, however, easily alter his or her urine volume.  In other words, an individual can drink lots of water in order to increase the volume of his or her urine.  In doing so, any substances that are present in the urine become diluted.  This could affect interpretation of any quantitative results.  Specifically, it can appear that an individual only ingested a small amount of a drug when, in fact, his or her urine was simply very dilute.  Another reason that drugs are not quantitated in urine samples is because any drugs found in urine are not representative of drugs that are having an effect on an individual at that given time.  Any drugs found in the urine are not available to the blood system and, therefore, are not being distributed to the organs and tissues in the body.  Once drugs enter the urine, they are in a sort of “holding tank” until they are disposed from the body.  At this point, the body is no longer using them.  Because of this, the presence of drugs in urine simply denotes past exposure to the substances.

Why does it take so long?

Toxicology analysis has several steps.  The first step for most samples received in the Toxicology Unit is alcohol analysis.  Once this is complete, a report is issued to the submitting agency.  If drug testing is needed also, the drug screen is performed next.  Finally, any drugs indicated in the screening are confirmed and/or quantitated.  Each class of drugs requires a separate analysis for confirmation and quantitation.  Therefore, if several drugs are detected in the drug screen, the confirmation/quantitation portion will take longer than if only one or two drugs are detected.  Once this portion of the testing is complete, a report is issued to the agency.


The analysts perform the testing in batches.  This is done for efficiency.  Each test performed requires that a set of quality control measures be completed.  For quantitations, these measures include establishing a calibration curve and checking the accuracy of that curve through the use of positive and negative controls.  Additionally, the equipment used for the analysis must demonstrate that it is working properly before the analysis can be completed.  For these reasons, once all of the quality control requirements have been met, it is efficient for a number of samples requiring that same type of analysis to be completed at the same time.  Hence, the batch analysis is preferred.  


Once each set of testing is complete, the data must be processed by the analyst and then prepared for review by another qualified analyst.  This is called a technical review.  Each set of data produced by the Toxicology Unit undergoes technical review.  This means that if five drugs from five different drug classes are detected in a sample, each of those five sets of data undergoes a technical review.  Once all of the tests and technical reviews are complete, a report is drafted.  This report is reviewed for accuracy by an analyst and by a supervisor before it is issued to the submitting agency.