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    The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) is a drug surveillance program of the US Drug Enforcement Administration that systematically collects data on drugs that are seized by law enforcement and submitted to and analyzed by the Nation's forensic laboratories (NFLIS-Drug). NFLIS-Drug data are increasingly used in predictive modeling and drug surveillance to examine drug availability patterns. Given the complexity of the data and data collection, there are some common methodological pitfalls that we highlight with the aim of helping researchers avoid these concerns. The analysis done for this Technical Note is based on a review of the scientific literature that includes 428 unique, refereed article citations in 182 distinct journals published between January 1, 2005, and April 30, 2021. Each article was analyzed according to how NFLIS-Drug data were mentioned and whether NFLIS-Drug data were included. A sample of 37 articles was studied in-depth, and data issues were summarized. Using examples from the literature, this Technical Note highlights eight broad concerns that have important implications for the proper applications, interpretations, and limitations of NFLIS-Drug data with suggestions for improving research methods and accurate reporting of forensic drug data. NFLIS-Drug data are timely and provide key information to inform drug use trends across the United States; however, our present analysis shows that NFLIS-Drug data are misunderstood and represented in the literature. In addition to highlighting these issues, DEA has created several resources to assist NFLIS data users and researchers, which are summarized in the discussion. © 2023 American Academy of Forensic Sciences. This article has been contributed to by U.S. Government employees and their work is in the public domain in the USA.


    Wayne J Pitts, David Heller, Hope Smiley-McDonald, BeLinda Weimer, Megan Grabenauer, Katherine Bollinger, Jeri Ropero-Miller, DeMia Pressley. Understanding research methods, limitations, and applications of drug data collected by the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS-Drug). Journal of forensic sciences. 2023 Jul;68(4):1335-1342

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    PMID: 37243363

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