The General objective of this project is: To early identify and characterize those new synthetic psychostimulants and hallucinogens with high abuse liability and/or psychedelic properties. This information will be provided to EU drug enforcement communities and networks, supporting rapid control measures by the EU and promoting a timely updated NPS legislation.

Specific Aims:


To select eight NPS (3 cathinone-, 2 phenethylamine- and 3 tryptamine-derivatives) based on the lack of scientific knowledge of them, their novelty, and their potential to induce drug dependence and/or hallucinogen effects.


To synthesize and characterize the selected NPS.


To design an analytical protocol allowing the detection of the selected NPS and their determination in biological samples and seized materials.


To characterize the mechanism of action of the selected NPS.

In vitro, we will study the mechanism of action (i.e. neurotransmitter uptake, interaction with monoamine transporters, receptor agonism) involved in drug dependence and hallucinogen properties.

In vivo, we will test the ability to increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the nucleus accumbens, a key brain area for drug dependence and compared these effects with those existing for classical drugs of abuse (i.e. cocaine).


To study the psychostimulant and reinforcing effects of selected cathinones and phenethylamines. We will test each selected NPS in animal models. From the dose-response analysis, an effective dose inducing psychostimulation will be chosen for the next objective and compared with the effect of classical psychostimulants (i.e. cocaine).


To study the abuse potential of the selected cathinones and phenethylamines. We will study the rewarding and reinforcing properties of the cathinone and phenethylamine derivatives by using the conditioned place preference and self-administration paradigms.


To study the hallucinogen properties of phenethylamine and tryptamine derivatives. We will study the psychedelic potential of these derivatives by using the head-twitch response (HTR) as a well-characterized behavioral model to assess hallucinogen effects.