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Monitoring Changes in the Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) Market Through Enhanced Identification of Emerging Drugs and Their Metabolites in Biological Samples

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2018
18 pages

Using the funded researchers' established operational model of collecting paired specimens and teleported drug-use data from electronic dance music (EDM) festival attendees, this project addressed some of the research needs regarding the characterizing of chemical compounds of forensic interest in biological systems.


This was done by providing confirmation of the parent drugs of abuse (established and emerging) and identifying metabolites in authentic specimens from a population of recreational drug users. Through sample analysis, researchers identified dibutylone and N-ethyl pentylone for the first time within this population, and it identified their respective biomarkers following extensive metabolic studies. The variation of novel stimulants increased from year to year. Only four novel stimulants were detected in 2014 compared with six novel stimulants in 2017. Drugs initially popular in 2014, such a alpha-PVP, were not detected in any specimens collected during this 2-year period, following scheduling of its precursors in China in October 2015. Novel stimulants identified included methylone, dimethylone, ethylone, butylone, dilution pentylone, eutylone, N-ethyl pentylone, and 4-FA, in addition to the common amphetamines MDMA and MDZA. The majority of oral fluid samples collected contained more than one drug or novel psychoactive substance (NPS), suggesting high rates of poly-drug use within this population, possibly increasing the potential for adverse events. There was not a distinct difference in positivity over locations from Miami to Tampa or Atlanta. The study concludes that NPS drugs have the potential to adversely impact the economic health and social stability of many social classes in the United States. Regarding NPS use in the EDM population, this report recommends additional follow-up testing of the population, since the latest data show that the profile of available and popular NPS drugs is changing rapidly, and MDMA positivity is increasing. Methodological suggestions for such research are offered. 5 tables, 4 figures, and 2 references

Date Published: June 1, 2018