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Spreading the Word on Novel Drugs

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2019
3 pages

Included as a side bar to an article in NIJ Journal in August 2019, this paper describes the protocol used by forensic toxicologist Barry Logan when he identifies a new illicit drug at his laboratory in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.


When he identifies a new illicit drug in his work, Logan alerts virtually everyone involved in countering the wave of opioids flooding the United States. The information from his drug analysis is posted on his NPS Discovery website and his comprehensive email tree. Logan, who is the executive director of the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education and chief scientist at NMS labs, established the website about 1 year ago, and he has already posted detailed descriptions of just over 45 previously unidentified illicit drugs known collectively as novel psychoactive substances (NPS), The system, which is supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), is constructed to transmit the drug information to public health officials, emergency room doctors, toxicologists, state health offices, and local treatment communities, along with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The new drugs are analyzed and identified using three methods: 1) testing of unidentified substances seized by law enforcement; 2) toxicological data mining of electronic data from tens of thousands of suspected drug deaths in which drugs were not initially identified; and 3) sample mining of biological fluids for traces of illicit drugs. An updating of the website will make it more comprehensive by including monographs for new substances and more "trend reports" on drug distribution and use patterns in the United States. The new site will also be more interactive.

Date Published: August 1, 2019