ESR | Keeping people safe and healthy through science


Drug and alcohol testing

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ESR scientists can identify a wide range of illicit substances and analyse a range of biological specimens to determine the presence of drugs, alcohol and poisons.

Our scientists routinely analyse and identify illicit drugs and related materials for the New Zealand Police as well as for other organisations and individuals. Drug types commonly identified include cannabinoids (such as marijuana, hashish and hash oil), amphetamine type substances (such as ecstasy, P, speed and benzylpiperazine [BZP]), opiates (such as heroin, morphine and codeine) and cocaine and benzodiazepines (such as valium, rivotril and clonazepam).

We also analyse blood samples taken from drivers suspected of driving whilst impaired by drugs and alcohol, and can provide an estimate of a blood alcohol concentration at the time of a specific incident.

ESR scientist drug testing

Our Forensic Toxicology team works closely with the NZ Police, Coroners and Pathologists to undertake analyses related to their investigations. For instance: 

  • When a death or alleged criminal act has occured, our scientists analyse biological specimens to determine the potential involvement of drugs and/or poisons. 
  • In a situation where death has occurred unexpectedly, a Coroner may order an investigation. The Pathologist conducts an autopsy, and if no cause of death can be determined, the Pathologist may send samples including blood, urine, liver and stomach contents to ESR for expert analysis. 
  • In the situation of an accidental death the Pathologist may request analyses for drugs that have the potential to impair.

Our forensic laboratories are accredited by the Laboratory Accreditation Board of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. The quality of our forensic work is our top priority and accreditation ensures our quality management system meets the highest international standards for forensic laboratories.

Listen to Radio NZ learn about how ESR tests blood alcohol levels (external link) .