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Inside the DEA: A chemist's quest to identify mystery drugs

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              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemist Emily Dye handles evidence, seized in drug raids, which contains fentanyl analogs at the ...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, a bag of 4-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, which was seized in a drug raid, is displayed at the Drug Enforcement...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemist Emily Dye stands beside her stainless steel lockboxes containing evidence, seized in drug...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, a vial containing 2mg of fentanyl, which will kill a human if ingested into the body, is displayed at the ...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemists working with evidence containing fentanyl, seized in drug arrests, always have a naloxon...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016 photo, Forensic Chemist Emily Dye works at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research ...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, stainless steel lockboxes contain evidence, seized in drug arrests, while they await forensic testing at t...

              In this Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 photo, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Forensic Chemist Emily Dye, prepares a control reference sam...

              In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemist Emily Dye talks about protective measures she takes while handling evidence containing fe...

              In this Sept. 21, 2016 photo, a worker looks out from the Shanghai Xianchong Chemical Co. in Shanghai, China. The company offered 4-flu...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemist Emily Dye handles evidence, seized in drug raids, which contains fentanyl analogs at the ...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, a bag of 4-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, which was seized in a drug raid, is displayed at the Drug Enforcement...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemist Emily Dye stands beside her stainless steel lockboxes containing evidence, seized in drug...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, a vial containing 2mg of fentanyl, which will kill a human if ingested into the body, is displayed at the ...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemists working with evidence containing fentanyl, seized in drug arrests, always have a naloxon...

In this Aug. 9, 2016 photo, Forensic Chemist Emily Dye works at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research ...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, stainless steel lockboxes contain evidence, seized in drug arrests, while they await forensic testing at t...

In this Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 photo, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Forensic Chemist Emily Dye, prepares a control reference sam...

In this Aug. 9, 2016, photo, forensic chemist Emily Dye talks about protective measures she takes while handling evidence containing fe...

In this Sept. 21, 2016 photo, a worker looks out from the Shanghai Xianchong Chemical Co. in Shanghai, China. The company offered 4-flu...

WASHINGTON (AP) — The proliferation of rapidly evolving synthetic opioids has become so fierce that the Drug Enforcement Administration says they now constitute an entire new class of drugs. And those drugs are fueling the deadliest addiction crisis the United States has ever seen.

U.S. officials say the fentanyl-like drugs are pouring in primarily from China, but Beijing maintains that assertion has not been substantiated.

Laws cannot keep pace with the speed of scientific innovation. As soon as one substance is banned, chemists synthesize slightly different and technically legal molecules, and sell that substance online.

Forensic chemists at the DEA's Special Testing and Research Laboratory are on the front line of the war on drugs, teasing out molecular structures of mystery drugs so they can be named, tracked and regulated.