National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Two Public Health Alerts from NPS Discovery: Prevalence of synthetic cannabinoid MDMB-4en-PINACA continues to increase in the US and internationally, and toxic adulterant xylazine found in illicit street drugs

NPS Discovery published a Public Health Alert last Friday regarding an increase in the prevalence of the synthetic cannabinoid MDMB-4en-PINACA, which first emerged in Europe in 2018 and in the United States in 2019 (see map above). Death investigations and comprehensive toxicology findings have shown that the substance is a powerful activator of the cannabinoid receptor system. The alert recommends that clinicians become familiar with the symptoms associated with this type of synthetic cannabinoid, and that laboratories share data on synthetic cannabinoid drug seizures with local health departments, medical examiners, coroners, and other forensic practitioners. Read the full alert here

On Tuesday, another Public Health Alert was released concerning xylazine being found in illicit street drugs. Xylazine is used by veterinarians as a sedative or muscle relaxer for animals. According to the alert, an analysis of seized drug extracts for the presence of toxic adulterants showed xylazine in cases containing heroin, fentanyl, or a combination of both. In humans, it can cause bradycardia, respiratory and CNS depression, hypotension, and other changes in cardiac output. It is often used in combination with heroin and cocaine which may increase the risk of overdose and/or death. Read the full alert here.


New CDC report: Vaping products confiscated in public high schools in California and North Carolina – March and May 2019

According to a new MMWR report, the CDC conducted an environmental assessment in California and North Carolina public high schools to understand the kinds of vaping products students used in schools. Overall, approximately 1,000 products were collected from 25 high schools that had been confiscated from students or found on school grounds during the 2018–2019 academic year, most commonly "pod mods" ("products with a prefilled or refillable pod cartridge and a modifiable system"). The contents of the products were not examined. Read the full report here

New bulletin from Washington/Baltimore HIDTA: Pills resembling ecstasy or “children’s vitamins” tested positive for methamphetamine

The Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) recently released a bulletin regarding the seizure of multi-colored pills by the Baltimore County PD Vice/Narcotic Section. The pills resembled ecstasy or “children’s vitamins” and later tested positive for methamphetamine. A field test showed that the scene was also positive for the presence of fentanyl and methamphetamine. This seizure was the first indicator of methamphetamine in the area. 

News and social media coverage is associated with more downloads and citations of manuscripts that focus on substance use

A recently published paper by NDEWS Co-Investigator and Scientific Advisory Group Chair Dr. Joseph Palamar examines how downloads and citations of published substance-related findings are affected by news and social media coverage. The study was conducted using altmetric and bibliographic information obtained for manuscripts published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence between 2018 and 2019. According to the manuscript, 23.6% of articles were shared on Facebook, 73.3% were shared on Twitter, and 13.9% were covered in news sources. Read the full paper here

How and why vendors sell on cryptomarkets

Cryptomarkets represent a growing element of the global illicit drug trade. According to this study by the Australian Institute of Criminology, cryptomarkets have continued to grow around the world, including in Australia, despite law enforcement efforts, seizures, and arrests. During the study, researchers conducted 13 semi-structured qualitative interviews with cryptomarket vendors to learn about what motivated them to sell on cryptomarkets. Increased security, lower risk of encounters with law enforcement, and economic benefits were some of the motivating factors mentioned by vendors. Read the full study here.


DEA announces 19th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The DEA published a press release announcing its 19th National Prescription Take Back Day on Saturday, Oct. 24. According to the press release, most misused prescription drugs are acquired from family and friends. The purpose of this nationwide event is to provide the public with a convenient and safe way to dispose of unneeded prescription drugs. Read the full press release here 

Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to criminal charges for opioid sales

Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges stemming from its marketing of OxyContin. The company is facing penalties of $8.3 billion and its owners have agreed to pay $225 million in civil penalties. According to the article, Steve Miller, chairman of the company board, said: “Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts.” Read the full article from the New York Times here.


CPDD Webinar on COVID-19's impact on SUD research, featuring NDEWS PI Dr. Linda Cottler

The College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) is hosting its first free webinar on Thursday, Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. (EST) on how COVID-19 has impacted substance use disorder research, featuring NDEWS Principal Investigator Dr. Linda Cottler. "Learn about how the University of Florida's Community Engagement Program navigated their way through COVID-19, Yale School of Medicine's research on the impact of COVID-19 on methadone treatment facilities, and Friends Research Institute's research on the impact COVID-19 has had on OUD labor and delivery.Click here to register.

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

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