National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Changes in methadone program practices and fatal methadone overdose rates in Connecticut during COVID-19

A study published in Journal of Substance Use Treatment examined how opioid treatment programs (OTPs) adapted during COVID-19. In July and August of 2020, researchers surveyed eight OTPs that dispense methadone in Connecticut. OTPs reported multiple changes to methadone treatment in response to the COVID-19 pandemic including increased telehealth practices and more take-home doses. Researchers found that methadone-involved fatalities did not increase in Connecticut following the changes. Read the full study here.

Impact of COVID-19 on drug markets, use, harms and drug services in the community and prisons

The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) published results of their trendspotter data through February 2021. There are few indications that the pandemic has made an impact on Europe’s cocaine market and large seizures of the drug continued into 2021. Data also shows that synthetic drug production sites and levels of cannabis cultivation in European countries remain stable. Read the report here.


NFLIS-DRUG 2020 Midyear Report

The National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS) published their 2020 midyear report. Methamphetamine was the most frequently identified drug, followed by cannabis, cocaine, fentanyl, and heroin. Those five most frequently identified drugs accounted for approximately 74% of all drug reports. Among identified synthetic cannabinoids, 5F-MDMB-PICA accounted for 30% of reports, while fluoro-MDMB-PICA, MDMB-4en-PINACA, and 4F-MDMB-BUTINACA accounted for another 36% of reports. Read the full report here.


Detection of synthetic cannabinoid adulteration in the unregulated drug supply in three Canadian settings

Drug and Alcohol Review published a study examining the presence of synthetic cannabinoids in the unregulated drug supply in three Canadian settings. Synthetic cannabinoids were found in 2.6 % of the tested drug supply. 76% and 85% of samples that detected synthetic cannabinoids were expected by individuals to be an opioid. Synthetic cannabinoids detected included AMB‐FUBINACA, AB‐FUBINACA, 5‐fluoro‐MDMB‐PINACA, and 5‐fluoro‐MDMB‐PICA, and the detection largely co‐occurred with fentanyl. Read the full study here.


Schedules of controlled substances: Placement of 4 specific fentanyl-related substances in Schedule I

From the Federal Register: The DEA placed 4 specific fentanyl-related substances permanently in Schedule I of Controlled Substances this week.  Read more from the Federal Register here. Read the rule from the DEA here

FDA approves higher dosage of naloxone nasal spray to treat opioid overdose

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced this week the approval of a higher dose naloxone nasal spray product to treat opioid overdose. The newly approved product delivers 8 milligrams (mg) of naloxone. The FDA had previously approved 2 mg and 4 mg naloxone nasal spray products. Read the release from the FDA here.

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