National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Alert from NDEWS Web Monitoring team: Increases in online discussions of synthetic cathinone α-PHiP

What was found? A trend of online discussion surrounding α-PHiP has gained momentum on Reddit.

What is α-PHiP? α-PHiP is an NPS of the synthetic cathinone class and an isomer of pyrovalerone. Mention counts of terms referring to α-PHiP on drug Subreddits have reached new highs in September and October 2021.

How is it being discussed? α-PHiP is co-mentioned with other synthetic cathinones and stimulant NPS. This online trend may signal emerging real-world interest in α-PHiP and other designer cathinones.

Drug terms: α-PHiP, α-PiHP, alpha-PiHP, alpha-PHiP

Methodological note: Data was collected and analyzed by the NDEWS Web Monitoring Team, led by Dr. Elan Barenholtz and PhD candidate Paul Morris of the Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics (MPCR) Lab at Florida Atlantic University. Metrics are based on word counts derived from algorithmic monitoring of ~80 drug-oriented Subreddits. No personally identifiable or post-specific information is incorporated in this monitoring process. For more methodological details, see our recent publication.


Increased risk for COVID-19 breakthrough infection in fully vaccinated patients with substance use disorders in the United States between December 2020 and August 2021

In a new report published in World Psychiatry, a research team including NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow examined the risk, time trends, outcomes, and disparities of COVID-19 breakthrough infection in fully vaccinated patients with substance use disorders (SUDs). Among those patients with an SUD diagnosis, researchers found an increased risk for breakthrough infection than that among the non-SUD population. Read the full article here.

Effects of the 2020 health crisis on acute alcohol intoxication: A nationwide retrospective observational study

In a recent article published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers examined the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on hospitalizations related to acute alcohol intoxication in France between 2018 and 2020. While the number of hospitalizations decreased between 2019 and 2020, they found in-hospital mortality and medical complications increased during 2020, especially during the first 2020 lockdown. Read the full article here.


Trends in ketamine use, exposures, and seizures in the United States

In a new article published in the American Journal of Public Health, NDEWS Co-Investigator Dr. Joseph Palamar and colleagues examined trends in self-reported ketamine use, ketamine exposures reported to poison control centers, and ketamine seizures. Overall, results suggest increased nonmedical use and availability of ketamine in recent years, particularly in 2019, though its relatively low prevalence indicates that ketamine remains an uncommon recreational drug. Read the full article here.

The use of diverted pharmaceutical opioids is associated with reduced risk of fentanyl exposure among people using unregulated drugs in Vancouver, Canada

A recently published article in Drug and Alcohol Dependence assessed the effect of using diverted pharmaceutical opioids on fentanyl exposure. Researchers found that those who used diverted pharmaceutical opioids had decreased odds of fentanyl exposure, primarily among participants with morphine-positive urine drug tests. Read the full article here.

Unintentional drug overdose: Is more frequent use of non-prescribed buprenorphine associated with lower risk of overdose?

A new study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy aimed to identify if those who used non-prescribed buprenorphine more frequently in the past six months were less likely to experience a drug overdose in that same time period. Results showed that greater frequency of non-prescribed buprenorphine use was significantly associated with lower risk of overdose, which the authors note is a potential harm reduction consequence of diversion. Read the full article here.

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