Emerging Drug Threats in the Third Quarter 2017

Synthetic drugs are the new normal. Gone are the days where we only have to worry about the “Big 5”: Methamphatemine, cocaine, heroin, marijuana and PCP. Now we have to worry about synthetic opiates like fentanyl, synthetic cathenones like flakka and a myriad of other drugs. So what are the actual synthetic drugs that are being recovered on the street?

The DEA’s Special Testing and Research Laboratory’s Emerging Trends Program compiled data for a report through a query of archived seizure and analysis information from drug evidence analyzed by the DEA’s laboratory system. They make this information available to everyone at the end of each quarter. So, what does quarter 3 look like for emerging drug threats?

Opiate Drug Threats

Fentanyl accounted for approximately 64% of the opioid identifications. Of the 219 fentanyl identifications, fentanyl was found as the only controlled substance in approximately 44% of the identifications and was found in combination with heroin in approximately 45% of the identifications. U-47700 was the next most prominent opioid accounting for approximately 7% of the identifications.
emerging drug threats
emerging drug trends
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Synthetic Cannabinoids

There were 54 synthetic cannabinoid identifications this reporting Period. FUB-AMB accounted for 50% of the identifications.


There were 39 cathinone identifications this reporting period. N-Ethylpentylone accounted for approximately 38% of the identifications. Pentylone was the next most prominent cathinone accounting for 23% of the identifications.

Why is this Important?

It’s important to keep up with current and emerging drug threats for several reasons. For those in law enforcement, you need to keep one step ahead of the criminal element. By understanding the emerging drug threats, you are better equipped to handle upcoming investigations and to not be caught blindsided by a complex investigation involving one of these drugs.

For those in the private sector, you want to know the emerging threats because this is what your employees will turn to to avoid workplace drug testing. By keeping ahead of the game, you can better keep drugs out of your workplace.

Author: Keith Graves

Keith is a retired Police Sergeant and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. Keith was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). Keith teaches both the DRE course and the Drug Abuse Recognition Course and has taught at the Police Academy. He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has held other assignments besides narcotics including Training Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, COPPS Officer, Traffic Officer, and 20 years as a SWAT Team member and Sniper Team Leader. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith earned a BA in Business Management from Saint Mary’s College of California and a MA in Criminal Justice. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry.

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