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Identifying Novel Psychoactive Substances: NIJ-Funded Research in Action


The DEA has issued a notice of intent to publish a temporary order to schedule seven synthetic benzimidazole-opioid substances in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. In addition to information gathered from multiple other data sources reviewed by DEA regarding novel synthetic drugs, trend reports from NPS Discovery, which provide near real-time information regarding NPS prevalence, are referenced in the Federal Register Notice. The reports confirm that these new drug variants have been identified in seized drug and toxicology cases in the United States -- since November 2020, these drugs have been identified in 44 ante- and postmortem toxicology cases. One, metonitazene, has been identified in 20 postmortem cases from 7 different states between January and February 2021 alone.

NPS Discovery, an open-access database that allows laboratories to rapidly access information about new drugs as soon as they are found, was developed, and is populated by, NIJ-funded researchers at the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE). The rapid identification and sharing of information on new drugs are critical pieces in addressing the opioid epidemic.

The DEA Federal Register Notice also cites a recent publication by the developers of NPS Discovery to demonstrate that since November 2020, there has been an increase in adverse event, including deaths, related to metonitazene, one of the synthetic opioids listed.

CFSRE also issues public alerts, which alert the public as soon as they identify a new drug. One such alert is referenced in the DEA notice as it alerted the public to the first toxicology case in which N-pyrrolidino etonitazene, another synthetic opioid listed, was reported in May 2021.

Learn more about NPS Discovery in "NPS Discovery and the Hunt for New Drugs of Abuse," an article by Frances Scott, Ph.D., a physical scientist at the National Institute of Justice, published by the American Association of Clinical Chemistry.

Visit NPS Discovery.

Read the Federal Register Notice.

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