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The evolving world of NPS’s – A success for Bericon

Written by: Alan Baker 9th May, 2017

New (or novel) Psychoactive Substances (NPSs)

Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPSs) also known as “designer drugs”, “herbal highs”, “research chemicals” and “legal highs” comprise an ever-increasing number of chemical, pharmaceutical and herbal drugs often advertised as “legal” and “safer” alternatives to internationally controlled drugs.

NPSs may share with these latter illicit substances common ways of consumption e.g. inhalation, ingestion, injection together with pharmacological properties but they are often more powerful and potentially harmful given that many of their chemical constituents have not been properly tested.

Whilst the use of controlled drugs generally seems to have stabilised over the past decades the market for NSPs has significantly grown representing an unprecedented challenge to police forces, the justice system and healthcare agencies.

Whilst some NPSs can be bought in a traditional retail environment, the internet plays a crucial role in the distribution of these products. It has become a highly profitable business as it provides a number of advantages including a massive and potentially highly suggestive pool of customers, swift and easy management and relevant anonymity.

In a recent case, the client denied knowingly taking a product containing a synthetic cannabinoid called AB-FUBINACA and that any presence of this substance, or more correctly, a metabolite of it, was a consequence of his exposure to and not use of a product containing AB-FUBINACA.

The key issue was not necessarily the identification AB-FUBINACA, moreover its presence in the urine of someone who has either used and/or being exposed to the substance.

In the circumstances of this case, if was accepted that the client’s cellmate was smoking a material containing this substance and consideration was then given as to the possibility of his exposure and not use of this material.

There is a scarcity of relevance of reference data in this subject area but from my research into this area and the specific factors in this case, I reported that it remains possible that the client’s recorded concentration of AB-FUBINACA metabolite was as a consequence of his exposure to AB-FUBINACA rather than his actual use of the substance.

It was another successful case for Bericon Forensics as the case was dismissed.