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New Psychoactive Substances - a minimum dataset

Drug Science Hexagons

The collection of scientific evidence about novel psychoactive substances is essential for guiding appropriate responses and reducing harm. DrugScience has prepared the following list of fundamental pieces of information, a ‘minimum dataset’ that should be sought for each novel drug. We recommend that for political responses to concerns about novel drugs to be ‘evidence-based’, it is necessary to have the following data on a drug before an optimal legislative response can be formulated.


Obtaining, by synthesis if necessary, pure compound, at least 100g – for use as a standard and for testing per below.

The pure compound should also be used to establish basic analytical-chemical criteria such as: aqueous solubility, volatility (i.e. is it potentially smokeable?), gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry, I.R. spectrum, reaction with field tests (e.g. Marquis reagent) and cross-reactivity to standard (e.g. amphetamine, methylamphetamine) immunoassays.

Since almost all of the substances of interest are bases, and are usually found at street level as hydrochloride salts, then the latter should be synthesised.


Test the drug at receptors, transporters and enzymes (including CYP450s) likely to be relevant – e.g. opioid, amine, GABA, glutamate some peptides – to allow comparison with known drugs.

Basic toxicology

  • LD50 measure

  • General behavioural screen such as Irwin test over wide dose range

  • Basic interactions with a range of other drugs commonly used including alcohol nicotine cocaine MDMA amphetamine ketamine benzodiazepines opioids

  • Establish minimum dose/brain concentration for psychoactive effect

Human psychopharmacology

  • Basic effect – capture known subjective reports through questionnaires of users

  • Subjective classification (euphoric analgesic; hallucinogenic analgesic; CNS depressant; stimulant; euphoric empathogen etc.)

Ideally (and especially if found in widespread use and/or presents serious public health concerns):

  • Establish principle metabolites and perhaps elimination half-life (comparative or human)

  • Measures of abuse liability in rodents – drug discrimination – possibly in some cases drug self administration

  • Tolerance and dependence liability – Chronic dosing studies (3+ weeks at an effective dose) to explore potential accumulating toxicity and withdrawal effects.

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