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Implementation of NPS Discovery – An Early Warning Systems for Novel Drug Intelligence, Surveillance, Monitoring, Response, and Forecasting using Drug Materials and Toxicology Populations in the US

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $485,938)

Illicit and recreational drug use in the United States are major contributors to morbidity and mortality, especially among vulnerable populations. While law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice community continue to combat harms linked to drug use, continuous challenging phenomena remain posing forensic and legal consequences. One aspect is certain – drug trends and drug use patterns continue to change and evolve with time and geographical region, especially in the context of new and emerging drug threats. New synthetic drugs, also referred to as novel psychoactive substances (NPS), represent a growing sub-class of concern as pharmacological potencies increase and new drugs infiltrate traditional drug supplies. Keeping pace with the most current drugs remains one of the greatest technical challenges facing forensic chemists and toxicologists today. This multidisciplinary proposal is designed to build on prior NIJ-funded research in method development, validation, and application to apply novel tools to the identification of emerging drugs, to characterize these drugs in forensic toxicological and chemistry samples, and to share methods, analytical data, toxicological data, and more, with the forensic practitioner community. Our laboratory will partner with medical examiners, coroners, toxicologists, chemists, law enforcement, public health, and various forensic laboratories across the United States to acquire and analyze authentic toxicology samples (e.g., blood, urine) and drug materials (e.g., powder, pill). Liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF-MS) and liquid chromatography tandem quadrupole mass spectrometry (LC-QQQ-MS) will primarily be used for comprehensive drug testing. NPS in the drug supply will be discovered through extensive surveillance initiatives followed by drug monitoring to determine prevalence, positivity, trends, drug combinations, and other characteristics. Metabolism of newly discovered NPS will be studied to assist toxicology investigations. New confirmatory methods will be rapidly developed for application to authentic samples, gaining drug concentration data to develop reference ranges. All acquired data and information will be processed into high-impact reports to serve as blueprints for scientists, clinicians, practitioners, and other stakeholders interested in various information about newly emerging drugs and their impacts. A key component of this project is the extensive dissemination of deliverable to the forensic science, criminal justice, public health, and public safety communities. Reports and publication will be made available open-access to forensic science and criminal justice partners. Overall, this research will facilitate and ensure more accurate and timely reporting of new drugs, aid scheduling and control actions, and assist with interdiction efforts and drug trafficking intelligence. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 30, 2022