The UB leads a European project to fight against new synthetic drugs

From left to right, experts David Pubill, Raul Lopez-Arnau, Jordi Camarasa and Pol Puigseslloses (line above). Elena Escubedo, Edurne Urquizu, Nuria Nadal and Maria Espinosa (line below).

Promoting the fight against the use of abusive drugs, anticipating the appearance of new psychoactive drugs and evaluating the risks they present to human health are the main objectives of the European research project labeled by the European Commission and led by the Research Group on Neuropsychopharmacology of Amphetamine Derivatives from the University of Barcelona. This project, to be carried out from 2022 to 2024, counts on the participation of Professor Jordi Camarasa, Professor Elena Escubedo, Lecturer Raúl López-Arnau and Professor David Pubill, from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, and of the mentioned research group.

Entitled “Early and effective detection of the addictive and hallucinogenic potential in the next generation of psychoactive drugs to accelerate the implementation of control measures by the EU (NextGenPS)”, this project also counts on the participation of the teams of the Institute of Sarrià (IQS), the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), the University of Graz (Austria) and the University of Poitiers (France).

The challenge of the fight against new psychoactive drugs

By the end of 2019, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) had identified more than 700 psychoactive drugs (NPS). Among these products are new psycho-stimulants and hallucinogens with strong effects whose long-term and short-term adverse effects on human health are still unknown.

These NPS were designed to copy traditional drugs (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) and thus prevent legislation — and potential illegalization — from the European Union. In this scenario, from the time these substances appear on the illegal market until they are banned, there is a long period of time during which there are fatal poisoning victims. Therefore, it is essential to promote the rapid exchange of information and to establish a system of risk assessment to activate rapid control measures on this problem in the European Union.

NextGenPS: identifying and analyzing emerging drugs

NextGenPS is a proactive and transversal project that will allow the identification and early characterization of new psycho-stimulants and hallucinogens – with a high capacity to generate abusive use or induce psychedelic effects – thanks to a new prediction strategy.

To achieve these objectives, NextGenPS intends to select certain NPS from the updated UN databases, given its innovative profile, the lack of scientific knowledge on the compound and the potential it may have to induce dependence or hallucinogenic effects. The project will also synthesize substances with other addictive or hallucinogenic potency, design analytical protocols to do forensic and toxicological analyses, and characterize mechanisms of action and psychostimulant, hallucinogenic and addictive properties.

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Alvin J. Chase