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Novel Psychoactive Substances: Challenges and Choices in Forensic Toxicology

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of new designer drugs designed to mimic the effects of controlled substances. These drugs include stimulants such cathinones (often called “bath salts”), synthetic cannabinoids (often called “spice”) and synthetic hallucinogens. Collectively these compounds are being termed Novel Psychoactive Substances or NPS.

Compared to cannabis, synthetic cannabinoids are often more potent, with active metabolites that remain in the brain longer. Of further concern, synthetic cannabinoids can cause very serious reactions, such as convulsions, elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure, vomiting, hallucinations, and even death.

Please download the technical posters and view the webinar below from Dr. Julia Pearson, Chief Forensic Toxicologist for the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office, as she details some of the new designer drugs as well as analytical approaches and a variety of mass spectral techniques that can be used to conclusively identify these substances in a forensic toxicology laboratory.

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