The prevalence of new psychoactive substances in biological material - a three-year review of casework in Poland

Drug Test Anal. 2016 Jan;8(1):63-70. doi: 10.1002/dta.1924. Epub 2015 Dec 14.


New psychoactive substances (NPS) pose a challenge for forensic and clinical toxicologists, as well as for legislators. We present our findings from cases where NPS have been detected in biological material. During the three-year period 2012-2014 we found NPS in 112 cases (out of 1058 analyzed), with 75 cases in 2014 alone. The prevalence of all NPS (15.1-17.6%) was similar to amphetamine alone that was detected in 15.1-16.5% of cases. The new drugs found belonged to the following classes: cathinones (88%), synthetic cannabinoids (5%), phenethylamines (3%), piperazines and piperidines (3%), arylalkylamines (1%) and other (1%). The drugs detected were (in the order of decreased frequency): 3-MMC (50), α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone (α-PVP) (23), pentedrone (16), 3',4'-methylenedioxy-α-pyrrolidinobutyrophenone (MDPBP) (12), synthetic cannabinoid UR-144 (7), ethcathinone (5), mephedrone (5), methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) (4), 4-methylethcathinone (4-MEC) (3), buphedrone (3), desoxypipradrol (2-DPMP) (3), methylone (2) and 2C-B (2). In single cases, 2-methylmethcathinone (2-MMC), 2C-P, eutylone, 25I-NBOMe, meta-chlorophenylpiperazine (mCPP), ephedrone, methiopropamine (MPA), and 5-(2-aminopropyl)benzofuran (5-APB) were found. One NPS was the sole agent in 35% of all cases, and two or more NPS were present in 19% of cases. NPS (one or more) with other conventional drugs (like amphetamines, cannabinoids, cocaine, and benzodiazepines) were detected in most (65%) of the cases. NPS were very often detected in the blood of drivers which was a challenge for toxicologists due to a lack of data on their influence on psychomotor performance. A review of concentrations showed a wide range of values in different types of cases, especially driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) and intoxication.

Keywords: blood; designer drugs; legal highs; new psychoactive substances; prevalence.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids / blood
  • Cannabinoids / blood
  • Designer Drugs / pharmacokinetics*
  • Humans
  • Phenethylamines / blood
  • Piperazines / blood
  • Piperidines / blood
  • Poland
  • Psychotropic Drugs / blood*
  • Substance Abuse Detection*


  • Alkaloids
  • Cannabinoids
  • Designer Drugs
  • Phenethylamines
  • Piperazines
  • Piperidines
  • Psychotropic Drugs
  • phenethylamine
  • cathinone