National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing



NPS Discovery identifies synthetic opioid butonitazene in the United States

NPS Discovery issued an alert regarding the first identification of butonitazene in the US this week. Butonitazene is classified as a novel opioid of the benzimidazole sub-class and is structurally dissimilar from fentanyl. Data suggest that this group of analogs can have potency similar to or greater than fentanyl. Read the full alert here.


Methamphetamine overdose deaths in the US by sex and race and ethnicity

A study published this week in JAMA Psychiatry showed a surge in overdose deaths related to methamphetamine use in the US over an eight-year period. NIDA investigators led by Dr. Beth Han examined data from decedents age 25 - 54 and detected a surge in overdose deaths. The analysis revealed rapid rises across all racial and ethnic groups, but American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest death rates overall. Dr. Nora D. Volkow, NIDA Director, was senior author of the study. The research was conducted at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health. Read the full study here

Estimating drug consumption during a college sporting event from wastewater using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry

A pilot study recently published in Journal of the Environment estimated drug consumption during a college sporting event. Dr. Chris Delcher, a graduate of the UF Epidemiology doctoral program and co-collaborator of NDEWS Co-Investigator Dr. Goldberger, was a co-author of this paper. Population surveys, medical records, and law enforcement seizure data are traditionally used to monitor consumption of licit and/or illicit compounds during sporting events. The study evaluated patterns in drug consumption from wastewater using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry. This method offered a comprehensive assessment of drug consumption throughout the course of a university football game and has potential to inform precision public health interventions focused on reducing recreational drug consumption during large-scale sporting events. Read the full study here.

Suspected nonfatal drug-related overdoses among youth in the US: 2016–2019

A study recently published Pediatrics used data from emergency room departments to understand how the drug overdose crisis is affecting youth. On average, there was a 2.0% increase for youth aged 0 to 10 years and a 2.3% increase for youth aged 11 to 14 years for suspected all-drug overdoses between 2016 and 2019. Among all age groups, suspected stimulant overdoses increased across the study period. Read the full study here.

Outcomes associated with scheduling or up-scheduling controlled substances

A study published in the International Journal on Drug Policy sought to integrate lessons from scheduling or rescheduling drugs. When drugs are added or are “up-scheduled” to a more restrictive category; these actions are usually prompted by concerns that the drug is being misused, and represent attempts to reduce misuse by constricting supply. For more than half of the events for which quantitative outcomes were reported, there were declines in use-related measures by at least 40 percent. Researchers also found that substitution to other substances is a possibility and need to be anticipated. Read the full study here.



News reports on overdose spikes across United States

News outlets in King County, Washington and Dayton, Ohio reported on overdose death spikes.

In Washington, the report found over 40 overdose deaths in the first two weeks of 2021. Physicians and researchers interviewed for the article stated that “with COVID, there’s ... been an increase in illicit fentanyl use and overdoses,” and that “we have a lot of heroin; It’s very cheap. We have a lot of meth. That’s very cheap and very pure. We also have a lot of fentanyl-- mostly illicit looking pills, mostly blue m30s commonly, occasionally mixed in with other drugs.” Read the full article here.

In Ohio, their local paper reported on a study commissioned by the Ohio Attorney General. The study found a jump in opioid overdose deaths beginning in April 2020, after the stay-at-home order. The death rate from opioid overdoses increased to 11.01 per 100,000 people during the second quarter of 2020. Previously, the highest rate was 10.87 overdoses per 100,000 reported in the first quarter of 2017. Read the full article here.


NDEWS is currently recruiting for a NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Fellow, available immediately. Visit this link to apply.

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