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NPS Discovery and the Hunt for New Drugs of Abuse

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2021

This feature by NIJ physical scientist Frances Scott, PhD, highlights the creation of NPS Discovery by National Institute of Justice-funded scientists. NPS Discovery is an open-access drug characterization and tracking database that can help laboratories identify unknown novel psychoactive substances.


Both healthcare professionals and the public have been bombarded with news reports about the opioid crisis. However, the opioid crisis is just the latest in a more than decade-long trend of emerging drugs that are chemically similar to well-known drugs, but that may behave very differently inside the body and are difficult for laboratories to identify and classify using existing technologies. With support from the National Institute of Justice, forensic scientists joined together to develop new methods of finding these novel psychoactive substances (NPS) as quickly as possible. The result: NPS Discovery, an open-access database that today allows laboratories to rapidly share information about new drugs of abuse as soon as they are found.

Date Published: June 1, 2021