National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Starting this week, the NDEWS Weekly Briefing will include a regular section dedicated to summarizing recent findings in the emerging literature on substance use and overdoses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Signal of increased opioid overdose during COVID-19 from emergency medical services data

A new study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence evaluated changes in the number of emergency medical services (EMS) runs in Kentucky for opioid overdoses before and after the COVID-19 state of emergency declaration on March 6, 2020 (between January 14 and April 26). After the emergency declaration, daily EMS runs for opioid overdose increased, while daily runs for other conditions either leveled or decreased. 

Of the EMS opioid overdose daily runs during the study period, there was a 17% increase in runs that involved transportation to an emergency department, a 71% increase in runs with refused transportation, and a 50% increase in runs for suspected opioid overdoses with deaths at the scene. Read the full article here.

Alcohol consumption in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States

In a study recently published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine, a representative sample of the US population aged 21 and older was asked about alcohol consumption patterns before and after the enactment of COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Analyses focused on those who reported alcohol use in February.

Participants consumed more drinks per day in April than in February (a 29% increase), and participants were also more likely to exceed recommended drinking limits (a 20% increase) and to binge drink (a 21% increase) in April. Increases among those exceeding drinking limits were larger for women than men and for Black respondents than white respondents. Read more here.


Public alert from NPS Discovery: Updated trend reporting for clonazolam 

NPS Discovery released a public alert yesterday with updated information on the NPS benzodiazepine clonazolamWhile the program's 2020 Q3 NPS Benzodiazepines Trend Report previously indicated a decline in clonazolam positivity, the alert notes that the drug's positivity is currently increasing based on new data-mining for its metabolite, 8-aminoclonazolam, which "appears to be a more appropriate biomarker for accurate determination of clonazolam use." Read the full public alert here, which includes recommendations for public health and public safety, clinicians, medical examiners and coroners, and laboratories.

Two new initial reports from EMCDDA on synthetic cannabinoids MDMB-4en-PINACA and 4F-MDMB-BICA 

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs And Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released two new initial reports on the synthetic cannabinoids MDMB-4en-PINACA and 4F-MDMB-BICA. Both are currently monitored by the EMCDDA as new psychoactive substances through the European Early Warning System.

The initial reports, which provide evidence for the European Commission on whether or not there is a need to request a risk assessment on a new psychoactive substance, assessed the existing information on each substance based on the following criteria: reports of health problems; reports of social problems; reports of seized material; pharmacological and toxicological properties; and potential for further spread. Read the full initial report on MDMB-4en-PINACA here and on 4F-MDMB-BICA here. 


Effects of psilocybin-assisted therapy on major depressive disorder: A randomized clinical trial

A study recently published in JAMA Psychiatry has found evidence of a positive effect of psilocybin-assisted therapy among people with major depressive disorder. In the first randomized clinical trial of its kind, the team administered two psilocybin sessions in the context of approximately 11 hours of psychotherapy to participants with moderate-severe depression, who were randomized to begin treatment immediately or after an eight-week delay in the waiting list control condition.  

In the overall sample, 67% of participants at week one and 71% of participants at week four showed a clinically significant response to the psilocybin-assisted treatment. According to the authors, the reported effect sizes were approximately 2.5 times greater than those found in psychotherapy, and more than 4 times greater than those found in psychopharmacological depression treatment studies. Read the full article here. 


Oregon decriminalizes drug possession; DC decriminalizes psychedelic plants; four states legalize recreational marijuana

Residents of multiple states approved sweeping drug policy changes when Americans went to the polls on Tuesday. Oregon has passed a ballot measure that will decriminalize small amounts of illicit drugs, the first change of its kind in the US. Going forward, individuals found with drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or LSD in small enough quantities will be given the option of paying a $100 fine, or attending newly created "addiction recovery centers." Support for decriminalization was also seen in the District of Columbia, where DC residents voted to decriminalize psychedelic plants. Additionally, four states––Montana, New Jersey, Arizona, and South Dakota––have also legalized marijuana, bringing the national total to 15 states. Read more about these measures here 

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

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