Promoting the fight against the use of drugs of abuse, anticipating to the appearance of new psychoactive drugs and assessing the risks these have on human health are the main objectives of the European research project approved by the European Commission and led by the Research Group on Neuropsychopharmacology of Amphetamine Derivatives of 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, the lecturer Raúl López-Arnau, and Professor David Pubill, from the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences, and the mentioned research group.
Under the title "Early and effective detection of addictive and hallucinogen potential in the next generation of psychoactive drugs to speed up the implementation of control measures by the EU (NextGenPS)", this project also counts on the participation of teams of the Chemical Institute of Sarrià (IQS), the Karolinska Institutet (Sweden), the University of Graz (Austria), and the University of Poitiers (France).
The challenge of fighting against new psychoactive drugs
By late 2019, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) had identified more than 700 psychoactive drugs (NPS). Among these products are the new psycho-stimulants and hallucinogens with strong effects of which the long-term and short-term adverse effects on human health are still unknown.
These NPS have been designed to copy traditional drugs (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) and therefore prevent the legislation —and potential illegalization— from the European Union. In this scenario, from the moment these substances appear in the illegal market until they are prohibited, there is a long period of time during which there are mortal victims of intoxications. Therefore, it is essential to promote the fast exchange of information and establishing a risk evaluation system 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 enable the identification and early characterization of new psycho-stimulants and hallucinogens —with a high ability to generate an abusive use or inducing psychedelic effects— through a new predicting strategy.
To reach these objectives, NextGenPS intends to select certain NPS from the updated UN databases, considering its innovative profile, the lack of scientific knowledge on the compound and the potential it may have to induce dependency or hallucinogen effects. The project will also synthesize the substances with another addictive or hallucinogen potency, will design analytical protocols to make forensic and toxicological analyses, and will characterize the action mechanisms and psychostimulating, hallucinogen and addictive properties.