Academic-Based Drug Field Testing and Training Initiative

The Academic-based Drug Field Testing and Training Initiative is the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) program designed to train law enforcement officers on how to collect, preserve and test illicit drugs in the field. The 45-minute online course, developed by GFJC in partnership with pilot agencies across the country, focuses on officer safety. Modules include collecting and analyzing new analogs of fentanyl and other opioids within minutes at the scene.

The online training portion is available for free to any agency that may benefit from this training. For quotes on additional instruction on field detection instruments and workflow management, please email


First responders can register for the FREE online course here.

  • FAQs

    Important Terms:

    • Drug Field Test: An analysis of an unknown substance that can be performed outside the forensic chemistry or toxicology laboratory. Typically the testing can be conducted by a non-scientist to develop investigative leads and provide the laboratory with fewer samples to test, possibly reducing backlogs.
    • Field-Portable Technology: Instruments that can conduct an analysis of an unknown sample, typically by non-scientists, for investigative leads and/or officer safety.

    What is the Academic-Based Drug Field Testing and Training Initiative? Under the direction of the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC) worked to develop an updated approach to drug field testing. The primary outcome of the grant is a free online course for first responders that covers safety protocols and introductions to field portable technology. Additional training on specific instruments and workflow can be included at an additional cost to the agency.

    Why is the program free? The BJA awarded GFJC more than $1.7 million to develop and provide this training to first responders. Under the award, active until September 2024, the funds are used to cover the cost to maintain the online course for first responders only.

    What are some benefits to field testing? The field portable instruments and tools discussed in the Academic-Based Drug Field Testing and Training Initiative are designed for the non-scientist as an operator. Whether it’s a type of colorimetric tool, or a more advanced handheld ramen, the first responder can identify the type of substance in a matter of seconds. This can provide investigative leads for possible arrests, help connect street drugs to larger networks of dealers, and instruct first responders of proper PPE required for entry and evidence collection. Even with small samples (e.g. a single pill) some instruments can test the vapor, allowing the lab to use the sample in other tests that may consume (i.e., destroy) the evidence.   

    What is provided for successful completion of the course? With a passing score of 80% or higher, enrollees receive a certificate of completion.

    How long does the online course take? From start to finish, the online course takes on average 45 minutes to complete. Additional in-person training can take as little as one day if agencies request hands-on supplemental sessions.

    Why is this important for agencies to use? As America continues to battle the opioid crisis, the public and first responders can unknowingly be exposed to these dangerous drugs. By incorporating the Academic-Based Drug Field Testing and Training Initiative in an agency’s workflow in the field, officers can identify first steps to detect these drugs and collect evidence samples in a safe protocol. GFJC will work with agencies that use field portable technology, like a standoff ramen detector, on how to build that into their field analysis workflow.

    What are some of the key takeaways from the online course? Safety is always first. The way an officer can approach a drug like marijuana is different from the way it is safest to collect fentanyl. The online course not only covers proper personal protection equipment (PPE), but also standoff detection analysis that can provide first responders with scientifically-backed results without ever touching the substance. Next are the field-testing abilities that can be incorporated into an agency’s protocol and budget. GFJC is product agnostic and can provide suggestions on what has been tested and evaluated for accuracy, efficiency, and field deployment abilities.

    Is this the first type of field drug training? In 2009, GFJC, then the National Forensic Science Technology Center (NFSTC), worked with BJA to develop the Field Investigation Drug Officer (FIDO) Program. While some standards of evidence collection is the same, the technology and the level of awareness of dangerous opioids has increased. Colorimetric tests were the most widely available field drug tests at the time. While they can provide first responders with valuable leads when used correctly, they are presumptive tests. The new initiative incorporates handheld technology which can provide first responders with more accurate results.

    Can anyone take the online course? The Bureau of Justice Assistance is covering the cost of first responders to take the course. Members of the public do not have access to the course yet.

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Michelle Chernicoff, Communications Program Director, 980-621-4211,