Built for Counterterrorism, This High-Tech Machine Is Now Used to Detect Fentanyl

December 4, 2019

(Kaiser Health News) – Mackin is using an MX908, a mass spectrometer initially marketed as a counterterrorism tool. The machine can help military teams looking for traces from biological or chemical weapons, or hazardous material specialists trying to identify materials present in spills or explosions. But now the MX908 has been commandeered in the fight against fentanyl, one of Boston’s — and the nation’s — top killers. The machine rapidly analyzes a sample of drugs and can detect and identify dozens of types of fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Increasingly, fentanyl is mixed with heroin and cocaine, often without the user’s knowledge, and it has become a major contributor to fatal drug overdoses in recent years.