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A More Timely Process for Identifying and Analyzing Trends of Emerging Novel Psychoactive Substances in the United States

Award Information

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

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2017, $49,994)

Novel psychoactive substances (NPS), also known as designer drugs, research chemicals, or legal highs, are drugs available for purchase from unregulated websites or illicit sources, with effects and dosing largely speculated or unknown. NPS are often related to common drugs of abuse or previously characterized NPS, with chemical modifications to produce more desirable effects or evade legislation. This study seeks more timely identification and characterization of NPS within high risk drug using populations in the United States, focusing on emergence and prevalence. In the United States, there is no centralized mechanism for the collection and compilation of data on the identity and incidence of emerging drugs derived from the NPS marketplace, and their contribution to fatalities and adverse events that end up in the emergency room, with emergency medical services, or in police custody. Drug monitoring initiatives (DMI) have been developed and adopted to track seized drug material; most notably the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) organized by the DEA, and other DMI state programs in New Jersey and New Hampshire. Other countries have adopted drug monitoring programs with early warning systems to alert law enforcement and medical personnel most notably the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Due to this lack of national organization on illicit and emerging drug monitoring, specific to drug ingestion and NPS use, this proposed project looks to begin a drug monitoring database through multidimensional analysis of sample extracts. To achieve this goal, the project will be divided into three main aims: (1) generation of up-to-date compound and library databases with frequent updates to stay in front of the ever-changing markets, (2) sample analysis and detection of NPS for in-depth identification, and (3) data compilation and determination of NPS use. Achieving these aims will allow for better identification, characterization, and overall education on NPS use, emergence, and prevalence.
Sample vial extracts will be collected from partnering laboratories and analyzed in-house. Initial analysis will be performed by liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-QTOF) for high resolution accurate mass determination. Drug detection rates and identity will be compiled over the course of the project, with additional identification and monitoring of unknown NPS and/or drugs of abuse. The overall outcome of this project will provide the most accurate and timely analysis of NPS, a drug market proven to be dangerous and life-altering.

This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 22, 2017