NPS Discoverty

Our History

The Center for Forensic Science Research and Education (CFSRE) launched NPS Discovery in 2018 as an avenue for rapid and timely dissemination of vital information regarding the detection of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) in the United States (US), filling the void for a program that did not exist nationally. The genesis of the program involved the development of New Drug Monographs which included chemical information, a brief description, and analytical data. These documents continue to serve as notification that new NPS are present in the US recreational drug supply, allowing scientists and practitioners to respond accordingly in their respective jurisdictions. Since 2018, NPS Discovery has grown exponentially to become a premier open-access drug early warning system by utilizing an evidence-based approach to lead the development of additional high impact reports for real-time action.

Also in 2018, NPS Discovery began an initiative to track emerging drug trends through the re-analysis of authentic forensic casework samples, including both biological samples and raw drug materials. This effort has continued through 2022 and has allowed for the production of Quarterly Trend Reports for each NPS subclass. These data have also allowed for the creation of Public Alerts to rapidly notify stakeholders of drug threats based on increasing positivity and prevalence with potential for increased morbidity and/or mortality. In 2020, NPS Discovery unveiled two new initiatives with public health and clinical partners, showcasing newly developed Drug Checking data and expanded toxicology testing on patients in emergency department settings (Clinical Reports), respectively. Most recently in 2021, NPS Discovery introduced a nation-wide, multi-jurisdictional effort to develop NPS Scope Recommendations as a testing resource for laboratories trying to keep up with ever-changing drug trends by implementing new method additions, developments, and/or validations. Additionally, our program has undertaken various research studies relating to NPS, including monitoring of drug use fora and gray market vendor sites and assessments of pharmacology and toxicity, among many other rapid growing and expanding initiatives.

Since 2018, the CFSRE’s NPS Discovery program has produced more than 125 new drug monographs to alert stakeholder about the emergence of various new opioids, cannabinoids, stimulants, hallucinogens, benzodiazepines, opioid precursors, and miscellaneous drugs. Trend analyses in forensic samples have shown the emergence and proliferation of new generations of opioids (e.g., nitazene analogues) linked to scheduling of fentanyl-related substances. Beginning in 2020, an exponential increase in benzodiazepine positivity was observed, with high rates of incidence with fentanyl and other opioids. Turnover of cannabinoids has continued, leading up to the recent detection of new generation cannabinoids post Chinese class-wide scheduling. Changes among stimulant and hallucinogen subclasses have been observed to be slower and less volatile; however, a recent major shift from eutylone to dimethylpentylone has changed the stimulant market.

Pairing of data from public health and public safety realms has allowed NPS Discovery to triangulate knowledge and information in manners not previously available in US. While our program was initially designed with forensic toxicology workflows in mind, it remains suited well for analysis of samples collected among other field of forensic science and other fields outside of the forensic space. Additionally, the NPS Discovery model and its associated reports are now consumed internationally for comparison of global drug markets and over NPS impacts. This webinar aims to provide an update with respect to each NPS subclass, as well as an overview of our re-launched website and new webpages.

The CFSRE's defintion of "NPS": We have refined the European community definition of "NPS" as a natural, synthetic or semi-synthetic substance, in pure form, mixture or preparation, that can be categorized using at least one of the following criteria:
  1. A substance that has been discovered or synthesized for the first time since the mid-2000s and is being ingested, regardless of degree of psychoactive effect (e.g., MDMB-4en-PINACA, N-pyrrolidino etonitazene).
  2. A substance that was previously discovered, synthesized or reported (e.g., patents, literature publications) but has been observed in the current recreational drug supply or identified in toxicological samples for the first time in more than 10 years (e.g., 2-methyl AP-237, isotonitazene).
  3. A substance that since the mid-2000s has been used in a novel way or differing manner from its originally intended use (i.e., different dosage form or amount to produce effects and different preparation) (examples could include fentanyl, loperamide, or xylazine).
  4. A substance that previously was not well described or studied but now presents significant challenges or threats due to an altered toxicological effect profile as a result of increased use or popularity (examples could include mitragynine or THC isomers).
  5. A substance that is not controlled by the United Nations drug conventions (1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs or the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances) but that may pose a public health threat comparable to that posed by substances listed in these conventions (examples could include quetiapine or O-desmethyltramadol).

For more information about the CFSRE, NPS Discovery, and our related programs or iniatives, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.