The development of new psychoactive substances in France

Olivier Roussel, Michelle Carlin, Lauriane Tensorer, Xavier Bouvot, Cyril Balter, Sandrine Sabini

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Our European neighbours have been involved in the fight against new psychoactive substances (NPS) for several years but the seizures from our police forces had been rare. Only the laboratories of French customs analysed large amounts of NPS. Nevertheless, in the last three years, an increased number of French toxicologists have reported detection of NPS use. On the ground, there is limited possibility of prosecutions because most of the NPS are not scheduled in France at this time. However, because of the problems posed, police officers attempt to make it part of their jurisdiction and seize the substances. We have monitored the recent NPS seizures to characterise their use in France and to participate in raising the awareness of the increase in seizures of these substances in France which may have an impact on other areas of Europe. All seizures were analysed according to standard analytical strategy defined in our quality plan. The analysis consisted of screening by ion mobility spectrometry (Ionscan™ 400B, Smiths Detection) and by gas-chromatography/mass-spectrometry (MSD 5975 GC/MSD, Agilent Technologies) after dilution or decoction in an organic solvent: (i) methanol or (ii) acetonitrile or after (iii) derivatisation by Sil-Prep™. Observed mass spectra were compared to the spectral libraries from the ENFSI-DWG and the SWGDRUG. All results relating to NPS were evaluated and substances and their origins were classified. Between 2013 and 2014, 56 seizures of NPS were analysed in our laboratory: 4 seizures in 2013 and 52 seizures in 2014, showing a dramatic increase in the last year. If synthetic cannabinoids (SC) were the main substances identified (15 different compounds), we also found five different phenylethylamines (ethylphenidate, MDAI, DCMP, camfetamine, fencamfamine), two tryptamines (5-MeO-DALT and αMT), two benzodiazepines (etizolam and diclazepam), a thiophenic analogue of methamphetamine (methiopropamine), a piperazine (mCPP) and dimethylaminoethanol. These seizures came from different areas of France. All results were registered in our national database from which some government bodies are informed. If all of the substances identified in the analysed seizures were already known, the increasing number of cases objectivises a geographical extension and a supply diversification which may be representative in other parts of Europe. France has not been spared from NPS and seems to be catching up, unfortunately. In France, we are observing a new kind of market with legal and illegal aspects and an evolution of use previously described in some countries. For example, suppliers now often sell pure powdered substance; packagings are simpler than the previous coloured bags and they clearly provide the name and formula of the substance(s). As in many other countries, there are too few tools to prevent this expansion, however, the French government has begun to register the NPS. Ethylphenidate has been registered since March 17th and some synthetic cannabinoid families should follow. Consequently we monitor NPS seizures with the additional aim of monitoring the consequences of these registrations on composition of seized powders and we continue to make magistrates and police-officers aware of the NPS development.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2015
EventTIAFT 2015 - 53rd Annual Meeting of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists - Florence
Duration: 2 Sept 2015 → …


ConferenceTIAFT 2015 - 53rd Annual Meeting of The International Association of Forensic Toxicologists
Period2/09/15 → …
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