SAN ANTONIO – Heroin, cocaine, marijuana and fentanyl — these narcotics make their way in and out of the Bexar Forensic Science Center every day, and it’s the job of the scientists there to identify these drugs for criminal investigations.
KSAT went inside the drug lab at the forensic center to get an up-close look at their work.
“Every day, it’s a new substance. It’s always an unknown, so we get to solve the mystery,” said Maureen Migliore, a forensic scientist at Bexar County Crime Lab.
From pills to powders and everything green in between, these forensics scientists get their hands on substances taken off the streets.
“Things collected in traffic stops with search warrants, a lot of, like, drug seizures, evidence seizures, criminal investigations,” said Hannah Miceli, a forensic scientist at Bexar County Crime Lab.
These scientists analyze everything from large seizures to small amounts of narcotics before they are sent back to law enforcement officials.
“We’ll get kilos, bricks, large quantities of things like cocaine,” said Miceli.
“As a drug chemist, everything is done through weight because that is how the law is written,” said Migliore.
Each scientist gets about 20-30 cases a week. Marijuana, meth and cocaine are the samples they see the most often.
According to data from the center, scientists tested 6,163 total samples from Jan. 1, 2023 to Sept. 1, 2023.
Methamphetamine was identified in 37.6% of samples, cocaine in 11.6% and heroin in 10.7%.
Forensic scientists have also noticed more counterfeit pills coming into the lab, with the majority of those pills testing positive for fentanyl.
“The most common seen is these round blue pills with the imprint of M30,” said Migliore. “What we find in these pills is acetaminophen with fentanyl.”
“What looks like oxycodone pills are actually counterfeit, and they contain fentanyl,” said Miceli.
Miceli and Migliore said it’s a roll of the dice on what comes into the lab, but the science behind their work is a sure bet.
“We’re not doing murder trials or anything, but we’re finding and helping our community in the best way we can,” said Migliore.