Abstract A number of addictive drugs, namely cocaine and heroin, of various sources, confiscated by the Italian police at the time of being illegally imported, were analyzed for their content of several elements (Al, Ba, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, Ni, Pb, and Zn). For cocaines, digestion of the samples was directly accomplished in acidic mixtures, while heroins had to be dry-ashed before the acidic dissolution. The solutions thus obtained were quantified by means of inductively coupled plasma atomic emission spectrometry. This technique was chosen for the task at hand in virtue of its high throughput and wide dynamic range. This approach shows a potential for marking drugs on the basis of the presence and amounts of a few trace elements.