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Spreading the Word on Novel Drugs

Date Published
August 19, 2019

This article was published as part of NIJ Journal Issue 281, August 2019, as a side bar to the article Identifying New Illicit Drugs and Sounding the Alarm in Real Time  by James Dawson. 

When forensic toxicologist Barry Logan identifies a new illicit drug at his laboratory in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, he alerts virtually everyone involved in the battle against the wave of opioids flooding the United States. The information is posted on his NPS Discovery website and through a comprehensive email tree. Logan, executive director of the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education and chief scientist at NMS labs, set up the website about a year ago and has already posted detailed descriptions of more than 45 previously unidentified illicit drugs known collectively as novel psychoactive substances (NPS).

The system is optimized to effectively transmit the drug information to public health officials, emergency room doctors, toxicologists, state health offices, and local treatment communities, as well as federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. “The goal of this was to put our arms around it and give it a name,” Logan said of the website, which is, in part, supported by NIJ.[1]

The new drugs are discovered using three methods: testing of unidentified substances seized by law enforcement; toxicological data mining of electronic data from tens of thousands of suspected drug deaths in which drugs were not initially identified; and sample mining of biological fluids for traces of illicit drugs.

Logan said the website is being upgraded to make it more comprehensive; the upgraded version will include monographs for new substances and more “trend reports” on drug distribution and use patterns in the United States. The site will also be made more interactive in the near future, he said.

This article was published as part of NIJ Journal Issue 281, August 2019, as a side bar to the article Identifying New Illicit Drugs and Sounding the Alarm in Real Time  by James Dawson. 

[note 1] NIJ provided critical funding in support of the NPS Discovery website through three of its FY 2017 award programs: Research and Evaluation on Drugs and Crime; Research and Development in Forensic Science for Criminal Justice Purposes; and the Graduate Research Fellowship Program in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. 

National Institute of Justice, "Spreading the Word on Novel Drugs," August 19, 2019, nij.ojp.gov:
http://nij.ojp.gov/topics/articles/spreading-word-novel-drugs
Date Created: August 18, 2019