National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Trends in seizures of powders and pills containing illicit fentanyl in the US, 2018 through 2021

A study published yesterday in Drug and Alcohol Dependence by NDEWS researchers, led by Co-Investigator Dr. Joseph Palamar, examined quarterly national seizure data from High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas to determine the number of drug seizures in the US containing fentanyl from January 2018 through December 2021. Read the full study here.
For more news coverage on this study, see the following:
Press release from NIDA NIH and NYU
NPR article, and  NPR All Things Considered
The Guardian article
The Hill article
HealthDay articleHealthDay article 
Newsy interview

Alert from the NDEWS Web Monitoring Team: Online mentions of HHC

Context: The recent proliferation of synthetic cannabinoids ("noids") sold in a legal gray area in the United States has led to a surge in popularity of novel cannabinoid substances. NDEWS Briefing Issues 63 (Dec. 3rd, 2021) and 66 (Jan. 7, 2022) reported Subreddit discussion trends for two of these substances (Delta-10-THC and Delta-8-THC, respectively).

What was found? Discussion of Hexahydrocannabinol (HHC) emerged for the first time on Reddit in Fall 2021 and saw rapid growth in early 2022.

What is HHC? HHC is a derivative drug of THC that can be produced synthetically. Claims about its potency, effects, and risks vary.

How is HHC being discussed? Commenters report HHC's effects as stronger than Delta-8-THC, Delta-10-THC, and some other "noids", with effects including visual hallucinations.

How do people feel about HHC? Three quarters of sentences in subreddit comments mentioning HHC expressed positive sentiment, as predicted by algorithmic sentiment analysis of Subreddit comments. This reflects a strong positive bias.

Drug Terms: HHC, Hexahydrocannabinol, "noids".

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.


Toxiological analysis of fluorofentanyl isomers in postmortem blood

In a manuscript recently published in Journal of Analytical Toxicology, study authors, including NDEWS Co-Investigator Dr. Bruce Goldberger, examined fluorofentanyl and its three positional isomers to identify para-fluorofentanyl in postmortem cases between October 2020 and April 2021. Read the full manuscript here.

Legality of drug checking equipment in the US: A systematic legal analysis

A systematic review published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence examined the legality of drug checking equipment in the US. Researchers collected, reviewed, and coded all US state laws that specified whether the possession and distribution of drug checking was or was not legal, and whether it was legal in the context of syringe services programs. Results showed it is legal to possess some or all drug checking equipment in 22 states, and legal to distribute it to adults in 19 states. Read the full study here.

Variability in the unregulated opioid market in the context of extreme rates of overdose 

A study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence used drug checking data to examine variability within the illicit opioid supply. Data was collected from a drug checking service in Victoria, Canada from November 2020 to July 2021. Drugs reported as opioids by participants of the service were analyzed to determine sample composition and concentration. Fentanyl was found in 96% of samples reported to be opioids, with a median concentration of 9%. Over half of the samples contained an additional and unexpected active, most commonly etizolam (43% of samples). Read the full study here. 


Strengthening federal mental health and substance use disorder programs: Opportunities, challenges, and emerging issues

Last week, NIDA Director Dr. Nora Volkow spoke at the US Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions hearing on strengthening federal mental health and substance use disorder programs. Listen to the full hearing here.

Postdoctoral Fellowships Available Immediately!

The University of Florida Substance Abuse Training Center in Public Health T32 is seeking applicants for two postdoctoral fellowship openings! 

- Fellowships are sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and postdocs receive an annual stipend and health benefits for 2 years. 

- An annual allowance is offered to facilitate attendance at conferences.

- Fellows would work on NDEWS, the ABCD study or other NIDA funded studies with internationally known mentors.

- UF resources include: CTSA; McKnight Brain Institute; Center on Addiction Research and Education; Arts in Medicine; Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence; UF Health Cancer Center; Emerging Pathogens Institute; Institute on Aging

- The T32 program is directed by Dr. Linda Cottler, and co-directed by Dr. Sara Jo Nixon.

Questions should be directed to Ms. Tamara Millay at Applications are considered on a rolling basis; the program values the diversity of its applicants.

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