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Press Release

Novel Designer Opioids Evade Detection at Most Labs, But Not at NMS

NMS Labs
Posted on: 12 Dec 17

NMS Labs, the nation’s leading independent provider of forensic toxicology services announced Monday the publication of data from the largest series of fatalities associated with the animal tranquilizer, Carfentanil. The only approved use of this synthetic opioid drug (also called Wildnil®) is to sedate large animals; however, it has appeared in the injecting drug population in the United States since late 2016. The drug has been reported to have an analgesic effect of more than 10,000 times that of morphine. In their report, published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, NMS Labs scientists describe detecting Carfentanil in over 355 autopsies and impaired driving arrest cases from across the United States between October 2016 and April 2017.

Dr. Barry Logan, NMS Labs’ Chief of Forensic Toxicology, noted, “The appearance of Carfentanil in intravenous drug-using populations represents one of the most dangerous trends in the ongoing opioid crisis. The potency of this drug, along with its unpredictable concentration in the street drug supply, and its increasing availability are all accelerating nationwide increases in intravenous drug deaths.” Logan also notes that the incidence of Carfentanil use is highly underestimated since many forensic laboratories struggle to find the very low levels of these drugs in autopsy specimens that can be responsible for the deaths. Logan said, “The trend among drug dealers in distributing increasingly potent drugs challenges the available technologies that have been used to detect traditional drugs of abuse. The trend is driving a need for increasingly complex and expensive equipment throughout the forensic community.”

Since April 2017, NMS Labs has detected Carfentanil in an additional 223 blood samples submitted for toxicology testing, for a total of 578 in just ten months. To Logan’s surprise, several of these cases have been drivers arrested for driving under the influence of drugs. “The thought that individuals with these extremely potent sedative drugs are getting behind the wheel is frightening, and puts not just the drug user, but every other road user at risk.”

Carfentanil cases have been confirmed by NMS Labs in 30 different states ranging from Maine to Texas to Hawaii, and several from Canada.

The challenge doesn’t stop with Carfentanil, however— NMS Labs scientists have now confirmed many additional emerging fentanyl substitutes including furanylfentanyl, acrylfentanyl and cyclopropylfentanyl in hundreds of additional cases, with new compounds appearing every few weeks.

Logan commented that as the number of cases increases and authorities act to outlaw them, it is just a matter of time until the next new substance appears. He is confident NMS Labs is well positioned to identify them quickly.

About NMS Labs:

Since 1970, NMS Labs has been a leader in professional laboratory testing with an impeccable reputation in science and service. NMS Labs is best known for its innovation and ability for introducing new tests to meet the needs of the industries it serves. NMS Labs is passionate about promoting public health and safety. For more information on NMS Labs, please visit

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Last updated on: 12/12/2017

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