Chemical Characterisation of New Psychoactive Substances and Evaluating their implications on Human Health and Wellbeing

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: Ctr for Anatomy & Human Identification


Chemical characterisation of clandestine drug compounds is used primarily in two circumstances, in forensic case to case comparisons and as part of wider national and international police and law enforcement intelligence initiatives. Much research currently focuses on the analysis of organic impurities in synthetically produced compounds such as amphetamine, methylamphetamine and ecstasy or through the analysis and interpretation of impurity profiles of a mixture of semi synthetic compounds and naturally occurring alkaloids which predominate in illicit mixtures of heroin and cocaine. No such work has been carried out on New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). Secondly, no targeted immunotoxicity research has been undertaken on different formulations (powders, tablets etc.) of amphetamine type stimulants (ATS) or NPS formulations. Anecdotal evidence suggests that polymorphisms which may be produced as a result of alteration in formulation may create specific and potentially severe health effects including increase risk of morbidity. There is currently little if any understanding of the short or long term health effects of these types of substances.
The objectives of this project are twofold. We will seek to synthesise and create a ground truth data base of chemically characterised NPS and ATS compounds. This will aid National and International law enforcement agencies in the identification of these materials providing a framework for intelligence led drug disruption strategies. Secondly, this project will generate the NPS and ATS standards required to undertake the appropriate neurotoxicity studies creating the foundation for understanding the short, medium and long term health implications relating to the ingestion of these substances. With an estimated 600,000 users of NPS in the UK per week this will be the first comprehensive study assessing the medical implications of the abuse of such materials.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509632/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1846947 Studentship EP/N509632/1 01/10/2016 31/03/2020 Shannah Smith