In an article published in late May, US authorities detailed a new handheld device that can accurately scan and detect kratom.
The tool is built on the “Raman spectroscopy” chemical analysis technique. When activated, it emits a light that can identify molecules through their vibrations. If activated and pointed at kratom, the tool can detect the presence of mitragynine, one of kratom’s primary alkaloids.
The report’s authors describe the tool as “simple, quick, selective, sensitive,” and test results seem to confirm this description. In testing, the tool positively identified mitragynine in kratom samples 99.3% of the time, with a false-positive rate of only 2.1%.
Nonetheless, the tool does appear to have its limits. The minimum concentration of mitragynine necessary for detection was 342 ng/ml. However, because this figure falls well below the natural concentration of mitragynine in kratom, the tool should be able to reliably detect kratom in most scenarios.
The authors wrote that the tool would be “ideal” for use in mail facilities, where it could be used to identify kratom products and prevent them from “reaching the US supply chain.” Since 2014, the United States FDA (Food & Drug Administration) has already granted US districts the authority to detain kratom and kratom-containing products without examination. If deployed, the tool could increase border control scrutiny even further and severely restrict the flow of kratom products into the country.
Similar tools, such as the TruNarc Handheld Narcotics Analyzer, also use Raman spectroscopy to detect the presence of various drugs. These devices are designed for use by officers, customs, and border control personnel, who use them to detect and confirm the presence of illicit goods in transit.
As of this writing, it’s unclear if or when the kratom-detecting tool will be deployed.