National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


COVID-19: A catalyst for change in telehealth service delivery for opioid use disorder management

A study published this week in the journal Substance Abuse examined drug use management in San Francisco’s isolation and quarantine sites. The Addiction Telehealth Program was utilized to prescribe buprenorphine for individuals with opioid use disorder. The study found that none of these individuals suffered overdose, and researchers recommend that these telehealth services should continue after the pandemic. Read the full study here.

Opioid overdose deaths before, during, and after an 11-week COVID-19 stay-at-home order — Cook County, Illinois, January 1, 2018–October 6, 2020

Yesterday, the CDC published research on individuals with opioid use disorder in Illinois during the stay-at-home order. Using data from medical examiners, researchers discovered an increase in overdose deaths during this period. After the stay-at-home order was lifted, overdose deaths continued to trend upwards from the pre-pandemic period. Read the full report here.


EMCDDA trendspotter briefing: Impact of COVID-19 on drug use and drug services in the Western Balkans

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published a new report on how drug use and drug services were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the Western Balkans. Researchers found that use of alcohol, benzodiazepines, and cocaine increased, and use of benzodiazepines in combination with opioids was noted. The study also found an increase in depressive symptoms reported by people who use drugs in both Serbia and Montenegro. The full report can be found here.


U-48800 and U-49900

According to the NDEWS Web Monitoring Team, led by Dr. Elan Barenholtz at the Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics (MPCR) Lab at Florida Atlantic University, online discussion of synthetic opioids U-48800 and U-49900 has resurfaced in recent weeks. These substances previously appeared in online discussion in 2017, following a trend in mentions of  U-47700. The opioids were recognized as potentially relevant drug keywords through algorithmic monitoring of ~80 drug-oriented subreddits. Sporadic mentions were found in a handful of subreddits dedicated to opioids or new substances. Are you seeing an increase in U-48800 or U-49900? Let us know here.



Association between benzodiazepine or Z-drug prescriptions and drug-related poisonings among patients receiving buprenorphine maintenance: a case-crossover analysis

The American Journal of Psychiatry published a study this month on individuals using both opioids and benzodiazepines. Using prescription claims data, researchers found that these persons are at higher risk of overdose and that those prescribed buprenorphine had a lower risk of overdose. Read the full study here.

An evaluation of opioid use in Black communities: a rapid review of the literature

A literature review published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry examined opioid use among Black Communities. Authors of the study recommended culturally informed collection methods in epidemiologic surveys and funding research that specifically addresses the importance of culture in accessing treatment. Read the full review here.

New bulletin from Washington/Baltimore HIDTA: Xylazine laced along with fentanyl

The Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) recently released a bulletin regarding the overdose risk of Xylazine. Xylazine is an animal anesthetic and is being used as a cutting agent with fentanyl. Three counties in the State of Maryland reported fatal overdoses involving Xylazine with overdoses increasing by over 800% from January 2020 to October 2020. Some of the street names for Xylazine are: Tranq Dope, Tranq, Trashcan, Steph Curry, Collateral, Damage, Cardi B, 550, Rampage, or Black Mask. More information from HIDTA can be found here.


Impact of darknet market seizures on opioid availability

The Australian Institute of Criminology published research on the availability of opioids on 12 darknet markets. The study found that when markets for opioids were closed, fentanyl availability increased. They also found that law enforcement agencies’ intervention on darknet markets were helpful in limiting availability of specific drugs. Read the full report here.


Federal funding for substance use disorder programs

The Office of National Drug Control Policy has authorized $4 billion for mental health and substance use disorders through the American Rescue Plan Act. $30 million for community-based programs for substance use disorders was earmarked. This includes harm reduction initiatives, such as syringe services programs. More information on federally funded syringe services programs is here.


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

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