National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing



Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with alcohol use disorder and associated risk factors for relapse 

A recently published study found that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted persons with alcohol use disorder (AUD). Data was collected from a clinical sample of patients with AUD during the initial stage of the pandemic. The impact of various COVID-19 related factors (physiological, psychosocial, economic, and others) on patients' personal lives and their association with alcohol consumption, craving, and PTSD symptoms were evaluated. Analyses identified the presence of psychosocial COVID-19 factors (e.g., isolation, anxiety, and depression) and living alone as two major risk factors for relapse. Read the full study here.  



From NPS Discovery: 2020 Q4 Trend Reports for synthetic cannabinoids, NPS stimulants and hallucinogens, NPS opioids, and NPS benzodiazepines 

NPS Discovery released its 2020 Q4 Trend Reports yesterday. An increasing number of emergency room admissions, death investigations, and intoxication events have been caused by synthetic cannabinoids, NPS stimulants, NPS hallucinogens, and NPS opioids in Q3 of 2020. The top NPS identified by class were etizolam (NPS benzodiazepines), brorphine (NPS opioids), eutylone (NPS stimulants and hallucinogens), and MDMB-4en-PINACA (synthetic cannabinoids). Read the full trend reports here



Association between benzodiazepine use with or without opioid use and all-cause mortality in the United States, 1999-2015 

Another study published in JAMA evaluated whether benzodiazepine use, with or without opioid use, is associated with increased all-cause mortality relative to the use of low-risk antidepressants. This study found a significant increase in all-cause mortality associated with benzodiazepine use with or without opioid use in comparison with SSRI use. Benzodiazepine and opioid cotreatment, in particular, was associated with a two-fold increase in all-cause mortality, even after taking into account medical comorbidities and polypharmacy burden. Read the full investigation here.  

Association of gabapentinoids with the risk of opioid-related adverse events in surgical patients in the United States 

An investigation recently published in JAMA evaluated the association between perioperative coadministration of gabapentinoids and opioids with inpatient opioid-related adverse events in surgical patients. In this study of patients who underwent major surgery, concomitant use of gabapentinoids with opioids was associated with increased risk of opioid overdose. However, the absolute risk of adverse events was low. Read the full investigation here.  



CBP agents and officers have seized 2,020 lbs of fentanyl in the last 2 months—a 260% increase compared to the same time last year

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced via Twitter a 260% increase in seizures of fentanyl in a two-month period. The CBP’s drug seizure data shows that fentanyl seizures in FY20 totaled 4,776 lbs, and seizures in the first three months of FY21 have already reached 3,194 lbs. For more data from the CBP, click here.  

DEA warns of newly encountered fentanyl-like drug in Arizona 

The Drug Enforcement Agency warned Arizona communities about para-fluorofentanyl. Authorities believe para-fluorofentanyl is intentionally created in clandestine production facilities run by Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Eleven overdose deaths testing positive for this fentanyl analog were reported by the Maricopa County Office of the Medical Examiner in December 2020. The full news artice can be found here.  

Former Walmart pharmacists say company ignored red flags as opioid sales boomed 

NPR featured a story on whistleblowers from Walmart’s 5,000 pharmacies. Internal company documents made public last month as part of a Justice Department lawsuit against Walmart show pharmacists throughout the country warned Walmart executives about opioid sales that appeared unsafe. An NPR investigation, based on interviews and government court filings, found that Walmart pharmacists warned for years about opioid sales that appeared dangerous or illegal. Read the full story here.  


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

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