National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


CDC: New provisional drug overdose death counts, October 2019–September 2020 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new provisional drug overdose death counts this week based on data in the National Vital Statistics System. Compared with the previous 12-month period, these data show a 29 percent increase in overdose deaths from October 2019 through September 2020. Opioids were the primary driver of deaths during this period. Click here to view the visualizations of these data from the National Center for Health Statistics, and read the New York Times report here. 

Trends involved in polysubstance overdose fatalities in Maryland, 2003–2019

A paper recently published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined trends in polysubstance use involvement in overdose fatalities in Maryland between 2003 and 2019 using Medical Examiner data. Investigators found that polysubstance involvement in overdose deaths has grown more common over time. While most individual substances became less common, the involvement of fentanyl and cocaine increased, and unintentional fentanyl use through adulterated cocaine may be a driver of overdose deaths in Maryland. Read the full report here. 

Synthetic opioids: Considerations for the class-wide scheduling of fentanyl-related substances 

The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report this week that outlines three possible considerations for scheduling decisions for fentanyl-related substances in anticipation of the expiration of the DEA’s temporary Schedule I classification on May 6, 2021. The options include allowing the temporary scheduling order to expire, and individually scheduling specific fentanyl substances; making the current temporary scheduling order permanent and continuing to schedule fentanyl-related substances as a class without modifications; or legislatively scheduling fentanyl-related substances as a class with modifications. Read the full report here. 


Prescribing of opioid analgesics and buprenorphine for opioid use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic 

A new JAMA study assessed how the prescribing of opioid analgesics and buprenorphine for opioid use disorder (OUD) has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic for both new and existing patientsInvestigators analyzed prescriptions from over 90 million patients in a national database of retail prescriptions from March to September 2020 and found that generally, existing patients receiving opioid analgesics and buprenorphine for OUD maintained access during the pandemic, while prescriptions for new patients decreased. Read the full study here. 


NPR: "Once on the brink of eradication, syphilis is raging again” 

Aarticle from NPR this week reports on new data from the CDC that show a spike in rates of syphilis in the USFactors related to this increase in overall national cases of syphilis may include increases in methamphetamine use. Read the full article here.

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