U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Evaluating Trends in Novel Psychoactive Substances Using a Sentinel Population of Electronic Dance Music Festival Attendees

NCJ Number
Journal of Analytical Toxicology Volume: 45 Issue: 5 Dated: 2021 Pages: 490-497
Date Published
8 pages

Since electronic dance music (EDM) festivals have become a popular venue for recreational drug use, including the use of traditional stimulants like 3,4-methylenendioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and novel psychoactive substances (NPS), using this cohort of people who use drugs recreationally, this study sought to collect biological specimens and self-reported drug use data from EDM festival attendees in the United States to monitor regional and temporal trends related to NPS use and turnover between 2014 and 2017.


Oral fluid samples were collected at three United States EDM festival locations, including Miami, Florida (2014 to 2017); Tampa, Florida (2017) and Atlanta, Georgia (2017). Samples were screened by liquid chromatography–quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry and confirmed by liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. Over the 4 years, 1,233 oral fluid samples were collected. With respect to self-reported drug use, 63% of respondents reported medicinal and/or recreational drug use within the last week. When comparing 4 years of data from Miami (2014 to 2017), NPS trends showed the disappearance of alpha-PVP after 2014 followed by a significant increase in ethylone positivity in 2015 and rapid decrease in 2016. Dibutylone was identified for the first time in Miami 2016, and N-ethyl pentylone was identified for the first time in Miami 2017. Additionally, 3,4-methylenendioxymethamphetamine positivity steadily increased from 2014 to 2017. A comparison across study sites (Miami, Tampa and Atlanta) and specific trends with respect to novel simulant use are described within. Using this opportunistic approach of monitoring drug trends, we have found that peak positivity of novel stimulants usually is within a year of their first detection. Understanding the dynamics of NPS drug markets will allow laboratories to plan for resource allocation and scope updates within a timely fashion to assist with the detection and confirmation of these emerging substances in samples submitted for forensic analysis. (Publisher Abstract)


Date Published: January 1, 2021