National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Overdose-related cardiac arrests observed by emergency medical services (EMS) during the U.S. COVID-19 epidemic

study recently published in JAMA found national surge in overdose-related cardiac arrests during the initial months of the COVID-19 epidemic in the United StatesInvestigators used timely EMS data from a large, national EMS database––the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS)––and found that peak overdose-related cardiac arrest rates in May 2020 were more than double the baseline from 2018 and 2019. Overall, 2020 values were elevated by approximately 50%. According to the authors, “the temporal similarities to decreased mobility suggest that the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic—perhaps especially social isolation—is sharply accelerating fatal overdose trends.” Read the full study here.

COVID-19 and treating incarcerated populations for opioid use disorder 

recent SAMHSA-funded study examined data from a Massachusetts jail to understand how to mitigate the harms of the co-occurring epidemics of opioid use disorder (OUD) and COVID-19. The Franklin County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) in Greenfield, Massachusetts is one of the first jails nationwide to provide correctional populations with access to three medications to treat opioid use disorder (MOUD, i.e., buprenorphine, methadone, naltrexone). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FCSO quickly implemented comprehensive mitigation policies and MOUD programming. Read the full study here.

triple threat: Parents in recovery during COVID-19 

A recently published study explored how the absence of human connection during the pandemic can be detrimental to parents in recovery as well as the parent-child relationship. Investigators found that families affected by substance use disorder (SUD) are uniquely vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19facing a triple threat. Emphasizing a relational model within SUD support groups, they found community-based mental health agencies, home visiting programs, and psychotherapeutic interventions can provide the meaningful human connection needed to support parents recovery and their growing relationship with their child. Read the full study here.

NDEWS COVID-19 study progress as of 12/11/2020

NDEWS is conducting ongoing interviews with three key informant groups––funeral directors, emergency responders, and syringe exchange programs––across all 18 sentinel sites to understand the national and regional impact of COVID-19 on drug use, drug-related mortality, and health services. To date, NDEWS has completed 84 baseline interviews and 21 follow-up interviews with key informants across 17 sentinel sites.

In their baseline interviews, among other questions, key informants reported on their experiences regarding the number of decedents who died of a drug overdose (funeral directors), the number of fatal and non-fatal overdose calls (EMS personnel), and clients served (syringe exchange programs) in the past 30 days. For fatal and non-fatal overdoses, respondents also quantified which drug(s) were involved. Below are preliminary data collected from baseline interviews to date.

Stay tuned: Additional findings will be rapidly disseminated to the scientific community and public, in addition to peer-reviewed publications. Read more about the supplement here.


NPS Discovery announces two new identifications in the U.S.: synthetic cannabinoid 5F-EDMB-PICA and novel hallucinogen MeO-PCE 

NPS Discovery recently released two alerts regarding the identification of newly identified novel psychoactive substances (NPS) in the United States. The synthetic cannabinoid 5F-EDMB-PINACA, sourced from the NMS Labs Criminalistic Laboratory, is structurally similar to 5F-MDMB-PICA and 5F-EDMB-PINACA, which were first reported by NPS Discovery in 2018. MeO-PCE, a novel hallucinogen, has been identified in at least one toxicology case since September 2020 in Washington. Read the published monograph for 5F-EDMB-PICA here and MeO-PCE here.


U.S. House of Representatives voted to decriminalize marijuana

On December 4, 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, the first time either chamber of Congress has ever voted on marijuana decriminalization. The bill would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act and allow states to regulate it as they see fit. It would also expunge past convictions for marijuana possession and require resentencing for those in prison for pot convictions. It creates a federal tax on marijuana sales that would begin at 5%, funds which advocates say would be used to reinvest in communities that have suffered from the war on drugs. Read more about this vote here.


NDEWS is currently recruiting for the following positions: 

•   NIDA T32 Postdoctoral Fellow (available immediately)

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