Amphetamine stimulants, typically white crystals or powders manufactured as pills in different colors have been widely abused for decades. Classic hallucinogens and psychedelics produce serotonin-receptor activity and associated hallucinations. Substances in this group also include eutylone and N-ethylpentylone, α-PVP and MDPV , ecstasy, PCP, cocaine, novel dissociative agents such as 3-MeO-PCP and 2F-Deschloroketamine.

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Novel synthetic stimulants can yield similar effects of more notorious drugs such as ecstasy, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine by driving the biological response activity of dopamine, norepinephrine, or serotonin. Amphetamine stimulants, typically white crystals or powders manufactured as pills in different colors, have been widely abused for decades.

Beyond recreational consumption, users accept far greater risks and take stimulants to keep alert or to suppress hunger and lose weight. As primary examples, users have included fad dieters, college students, clubbers, long-haul truck drivers, machine operators, and even doctors on long twelve-hour shifts. In limited doses, amphetamines provide most users with feelings of energy and suppressed appetite. Over the past 25 years, methamphetamine synthesized from ephedrine and other precursors has emerged as a dangerous psychostimulant. In 2017, 15 percent of all drug overdose deaths were attributed to methamphetamine, and half of those deaths also involved an opioid—mostly the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Classic hallucinogens and psychedelics produce serotonin-receptor activity and associated hallucinations. Hallucinogens, psychedelics, and designer substances in this category echo the dangerous unknown brain-altering trip of legacy drugs such as LSD and DMT marked by changes in mood and perception with a secondary stimulant effect. Traditionally found in nature, in the form of plants or fungi, many hallucinogens and psychedelics today are synthetically produced in illicit laboratories.

Since the 2012 Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act (SDAPA), cannabimimetic agents, including over 15 synthetic cannabinoid compounds, 12 synthetic cathinone compounds (primarily mephedrone, methylone, and MDPV), and nine synthetic hallucinogens known as the 2C family, are restricted or scheduled by law under amendments to Title 21 United States Code (USC) Controlled Substances Act. This legislation drove down the popularity of the covered substances, but new substances emerged as replacements. The short lifespans and constant shifts in positivity challenges the drug-monitoring community.

NMS Labs also tests for similar forms of NPS known as synthetic cathinones. Commonly distributed as bath salts or research chemicals, these designer drugs also fall into this category of substances similar to methylone, amphetamines, methamphetamine, cocaine, and methylene-dioxymethamphetamine (MDMA or ecstasy). These drugs were classified in the United States as scheduled controlled substances; however, a number of synthetics and their analogs remain popular throughout the world as drugs of abuse.

As a leading national forensic toxicology laboratory, NMS Labs conducts forensic and clinical toxicology testing for various derived, designer, or synthetic psychedelics, stimulants, and hallucinogens. To address your professional forensic or clinical needs, NMS Labs provides LC-MS/MS screening, detection, confirmation, quantification, and available interpretation services for the following common drugs and their associated metabolites in this drug screening category: amphetamine, benzoylecgonine (cocaine), 6-monoacetylmorphine (heroin), cannabinoids (marijuana), methamphetamine, MDA, MDMA (ecstasy), and phencyclidine (PCP).

Sources: CDC and the National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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