Analysis, knowledge dissemination, justice implementation and special testing of novel synthetic opioids


Acronym JUSTSO
Call reference JUST-2017-AG-DRUG: Supporting Initiatives in the Field of Drugs Policy
Grant agreement ID 806996
Implementation period 01.10.2018. – 30.09.2020.
Project coordinator Università degli Studi di Cagliari (UNICA), Italy
Project partners Università Politecnica delle Marche (UNIVPM), Italy
Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis, Latvia
Universitaetsklinikum Essen (UKESSEN), Germany
Università degli Studi Gabriele D’Annunzio di Chieti-Pescara (Ud’A), Italy
Institut Catala de la Salut (ICS), Spain
Universidad Nacional de Educacion a Distancia (UNED), Spain
Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS), Italy
Aristotelio Panepistimio Thessalonikis (AUTH), Greece
Consorcio Mar Parc de Salut de Barcelona (IMIM), Spain
Project web page
Leader of Latvian team Dr.chem. Valerjans Kauss
Total Costs 610 835 EUR
Costs for Latvian partner 76250 EUR


Novel synthetic opioids (NSO) are a class of novel psychoactive substances (NPS) that mimic morphine and heroin but, in contrast to them, may be highly effective oraly and many times more potent than morphine in producing acute toxicity. Their use is likely to become the primary source of NPS-associated deaths in Europe.

This trend calls for action and better knowledge of the profile, setting and effects of these substances in order to devise strategies of intervention from the legal, epidemiological, diagnostic, clinical, emergency treatment and public awareness viewpoints.

The present project, apart from its general management and coordination, is articulated into several main lines:

  • Collection of information from providers in several countries relating to individuals who have reported using NSO or died from their use
  • These data will indicate the specific classes of compounds towards which to develop new rapid and portable analytical methods of NSO present in biological specimens, to be later confirmed and extended by laboratory procedures
  • Selected representatives of these compounds will be studied for their potency and intrinsic activity in vitro as opiate agonists and for their behavioural and neurochemical effects in vivo. In order to develop effective interventions against NSO overdosing and lethality, known (e.g. naloxone, naltrexone) or ad hoc synthesized antagonists of μ receptors (MOR) with higher affinity and efficacy will be tested in different models
  • Existing information and that generated by the project will be made available to the public in order to provide awareness of the toxic liability of these compounds and with tools to reduce their use and to treat their emergencies. It is hoped that this action will contribute to invert the current growing trend of NSO use and mortality.