Special to HNN Provided by Marshall University
Dr. J. Graham Rankin
Dr. J. Graham Rankin

HUNTINGTON, WV – Dr. J. Graham Rankin, professor of the Marshall University Forensic Science Graduate Program, has been named as a core committee member of the newly formed Advisory Committee for the Evaluation of Controlled Substance Analogs (ACECSA).


The mission of the committee is to recommend minimum standards for the evaluation of non-controlled substances being considered as analogs of controlled substances.  Its main objective is to establish a working definition of “analog” and related terms within the scope of forensic drug analysis.


The Federal Analog Act, 21 U.S.C. § 813, is a section of the United States Controlled Substances Act which allowed any chemical “substantially similar” to a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II to be treated as if it were also listed in those schedules, but only if intended for human consumption. In other words, the similar substances cited in the act are often called analogs or designer drugs. 


“The problem is that the act does not define what ‘substantially similar’ means from a scientific standpoint,” Rankin said.  “Frequently, federal legislation and state legislation like that in West Virginia and other states resort to listing specific compounds.  The manufacturers of products like ‘Spice’ or ‘bath salts’ substitute a similar compound which is not listed for those that are.”


Rankin said designer drugs are “designed” to beat the United States Controlled Substances Act. “The simple definition of a designer drug is that it has the same drug activity as a controlled substance but is chemically different enough so it is not currently restricted,” he added. Even though often labeled as “not for human consumption,” the actual intended use is to be smoked or ingested to achieve a high.


The development of scientific criteria for determining if a new compound is an analog will aid in the control of these potentially dangerous compounds, while permitting legitimate research for new pharmaceutical products, Rankin said.


The committee is currently made up of 19 members representing local, state, federal, academic and private forensic laboratories.  Rankin is chair of the Subcommittee on Literature Support which seeks to bring together published scientific evidence on the effects and synthesis of these compounds.  He also serves as Recording Secretary until February when the next meeting will be held in conjunction with the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Washington, D.C.