National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Alert from NDEWS Web Monitoring Team: Increases in discussions of 3-HO-PCP

According to 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, the drug 3-HO-PCP has appeared frequently in Reddit discussions. 3-HO-PCP is a dissociative and designer drug which has been mentioned hundreds of times each month in drug-related Subreddits. Since the beginning of 2021, monthly first-time mentions of the drug by unique commenters have doubled, coinciding with growth in total mentions. This recent trend in online mentions may signal emerging real-world interest in 3-HO-PCP and other designer dissociative drugs.

Methodological note: Data 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.

Have you heard of 3-HO-PCP in your area? Let us know here.


NPS Discovery releases recommended scope for NPS testing in the United States based on Q2 2021 data

This week, NPS Discovery and the SOFT Designer Drugs Committee released updated scope recommendations for laboratories which test for new psychoactive substances (NPS). These recommendations are based on current trends and intelligence from Q2 2021 data. Five benzodiazepines, five opioids, four stimulants and hallucinogens, and four synthetic cannabinoids are strongly recommended for inclusion in labs' analytical scopes for NPS testing. Read the full report here.

Washington/Baltimore HIDTA alert on recent seizures of 3-Methylfentanyl and W-18

Last week, the Washington/Baltimore High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Investigative Support Center released a bulletin regarding two seizures of 3-Methylfentanyl (α-Methylfentanyl, mefentanyl, 3-MF) and three seizures of W-18 by a Maryland detention center. 3-Methylfentanyl is a fentanyl analog which has been described as between 400 to 6,000 times stronger than morphine, while W-18 is an opioid agonist which has been estimated to be 10,000 times stronger than morphine. Read more about HIDTA here.


The effect of rurality on polysubstance use trends and variability among individuals with opioid use disorder

A recent study led by NDEWS Scientific Advisory Group member Dr. Matthew Ellis examined trends in past-12-month opioid and polysubstance use among rural and urban persons with opioid use disorder. The study found statistically significant changes in rates of opioid use in both settings, including greater increases in opioid and methamphetamine use among rural individuals. The authors also used latent class analysis to identify five unique groups of polysubstance use patterns. Read the full study here.  

Patterns of reduced use and abstinence in multi-site randomized controlled trials of pharmacotherapies for cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders

In a new Drug and Alcohol Dependence study, researchers compared data from 10 multi-site pharmacotherapy randomized controlled trials (RCTs) for cocaine and methamphetamine use disorders to examine patterns of abstinence and reduced use of both drugs. Results showed that compared to participants in methamphetamine RCTs, participants in cocaine RCTs were more likely to reduce use (13.2% vs. 20.6% reduction in use, respectively). The authors concluded that the results of this study support the idea that abstinence should not be the only outcome measured in interventions for substance use disorders. Read the full study here.


Sociodemographic changes in emergency department visits due to alcohol during COVID-19

Researchers examined how rates of alcohol-related emergency department (ED) visits changed during the COVID-19 pandemic by demographic characteristics in Ontario. While the total number of ED visits decreased within the first six months of the pandemic, results showed a shift in the populations affected: ED visits due to alcohol increased for rural, lower-income, and middle-aged populations. The authors suggest immediate and long-term interventions may be needed to mitigate these widening disparities in alcohol-related harms. Read the full study here.


Statistics Canada: Wastewater analysis suggests that consumption of fentanyl, cannabis, and methamphetamine increased in early pandemic period

According to results from Statistics Canada's Canadian Wastewater Survey (CWS), five major Canadian cities saw an estimated increase in drug use since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The CWS program has been testing wastewater samples in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver since March 2019. The latest data, released this week, include monthly estimates of drug metabolites for 14 drugs based on samples collected from March to July 2019 and January to July 2020. Estimates for drug consumption were found to vary significantly between cities. Read the full report here.

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