News Roundup: May 24, 2018

By Roger Parloff

We’ve written a fair amount about the menace of illicit labs in China and elsewhere, producing potent and lethal synthetic opioids, like fentanyl and its analogs, often marketed over the darknet. Illicitly produced synthetic drugs now account for fully half the opioid overdose deaths in this country. Drug policy analyst Robert DuPont has warned us that “the global illegal market is switching from agricultural products to purely synthetic drugs,” and that this fact is driving the future of the epidemic.

But what we’d frankly not known was that some of these illicit labs abroad are actually operating so openly that a couple Bloomberg journalists could go visit the owner of two of them at his home in Wuhan and casually inform him, to his apparent surprise, that he’d been indicted last September as a drug kingpin in Gulfport, Miss. We’d also not realized that China would react to all this by expressing offense that the US had “unilaterally” indicted one of its nationals and by arguing that the defendant had not violated any Chinese law—notwithstanding that he allegedly exported 22 drugs, including four fentanyl analogs, into the US, where they are banned. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 24, 2018”

In Opioid Cases, Local Prosecutors Are Torn Between Empathy and Demands for Punishment

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Jason Miller, the city prosecutor of Kenton, Ohio, in front of the Hardin County Court of Common Pleas.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • City prosecutor and assistant county prosecutor Jason Miller, of Kenton, Ohio, estimates that two thirds of Kenton’s cases last year—about 175 felonies and 700 misdemeanors—were drug related.

Continue reading “In Opioid Cases, Local Prosecutors Are Torn Between Empathy and Demands for Punishment”

How Synthetic Opioids—New and Lethal—Are Tested and Trafficked on the Darknet

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Five grams of fentanyl for sale as recently advertised in a darknet cryptomarket. Also sold are newly invented synthetic opioids, like MPF-47,700.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • eDarkTrends, an interdisciplinary academic group, monitors the introduction of new synthetic opioids into global illicit drug markets via “cryptomarkets” on the so-called darknet.
  • eDarkTrends noticed five new synthetic opioids being offered for sale during just a two-week stretch from March 20 to April 3, 2018.
  • Synthetic opioids—including fentanyl, its analogs, and still more exotic drugs like U47700 and its analogs—accounted for 46 percent of opioid overdose deaths, and 31 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016.
  • In Ohio, where eDarkTrends is based, fentanyl and related drugs accounted for 58.2 percent of all unintentional drug overdose deaths.

Continue reading “How Synthetic Opioids—New and Lethal—Are Tested and Trafficked on the Darknet”

News Roundup: May 18, 2018

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Photo credit: Jacob Creswick, Unsplash

[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.] 

By Roger Parloff

At one level, the federal government is working with unprecedented dedication to curb the opioid crisis. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has now advanced 57 opioid-related bills (expected to reach the full House in June) while at least two Senate committees are marking up successor legislation to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. Yet yesterday, at a House hearing to reauthorize the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Trump Administration declined an invitation (see 35:45) to send the acting director (or any other representative) to participate. A National Drug Control Strategy, due in February, has not yet been submitted. One member of theWhite House Commission on Combating Opioid Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis has, in retrospect, denounced its work as a “sham.” Appropriations remains insufficient to meet demands, and the future shape of Medicaid—which undergirds addiction treatment—remains a question mark. Meanwhile, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), The Hill reports, is working on another repeal-and-replace bill for the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 18, 2018”

Opioid Addiction Treatment Begins in the Emergency Room in a Camden, NJ, Hospital

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Patients at the Addiction Medicine Program of Cooper University Health Care’s Urban Health Institute (Photo: Cooper University Health Care)
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • At Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ, emergency room doctors treat five to 15 patients a day for opioid overdose.
  • When legally permitted, medically indicated, and the patient agrees, the hospital starts medication-assisted treatment in the emergency room.
  • The hospital has also launched its own addiction clinic, to ensure that patients have a viable medication-assisted treatment option.

Continue reading “Opioid Addiction Treatment Begins in the Emergency Room in a Camden, NJ, Hospital”

News Roundup: May 11, 2018

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Pregnant Women With Addiction (Photo: Zach Guinta, Unsplash)

[To have news roundups like this one sent directly to your inbox for free, sign up by clicking here or on the blue “subscribe” button on the top of the right-hand column of the site.] 

By Roger Parloff

In America, a baby is born with opioid withdrawal symptoms every 15 minutes. The focus of this issue of the newsletter are two complementary articles exploring, from different angles, the subject of pregnant mothers with addiction. The first, in the New York Times Magazine, by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan, provides a harrowing but sympathetic view from inside the chemically-hijacked minds of these mothers—who would be considered criminals in some states. The second, by KHN, discusses the conflicting results of research on the impact of opioid withdrawal at birth, or neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), on later child development. Continue reading “News Roundup: May 11, 2018”

Drug Policy Expert Robert DuPont: The Opioid Crisis is Now About Synthetics and Polydrug Use

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Robert L. DuPont, MD, at the 2018 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta in April.
QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • Psychiatrist Robert L. DuPont, MD, has been campaigning against opioid addiction for 50 years.
  • In a new Q&A, he says that the opioid crisis, “the defining epidemic of the 21st Century,” needs a “new narrative.”
  • “What’s killing these people is not just opioids. It’s opioids in combination with other drugs of abuse.”
  • “The global illegal market is switching from agricultural products to purely synthetic drugs.”
  • “So illegal drug users … are able to buy more drugs, at higher potency, and lower prices, with more convenient delivery, than ever before.”
  • “We need to end the war between the treatment modalities.”

Continue reading “Drug Policy Expert Robert DuPont: The Opioid Crisis is Now About Synthetics and Polydrug Use”

Q&A Pt 2: Adam Bisaga, MD, on Opioid Disorder, Chronic Pain, Genetics, Kratom, and Stigma

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QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • In Part 2 of an interview, addiction psychiatrist Adam Bisaga discusses his new book, Overcoming Opioid Addiction.
  • “Clearly there are patients that have some serious pain syndromes that respond well to painkillers. … Then you have patients who have many problems, [who] got put on painkillers [and use them] as a way of coping with all the other problems in life.”
  • “It’s not easy to tell, even for experts, but certainly for … primary care providers” when patients on prescription opioids are “doing well” and when they are not. “That’s an assumption that got us into trouble with the epidemic.”
  • Regarding ibogaine and kratom: “People with addiction have a propensity for magic thinking.”
  • In the US addiction is seen as a “more nonmedical kind of problem, a social problem, a moral problem,” than in Western Europe.

Continue reading “Q&A Pt 2: Adam Bisaga, MD, on Opioid Disorder, Chronic Pain, Genetics, Kratom, and Stigma”

Q&A Pt 1: Adam Bisaga, MD: Referring Patients to Most Opioid Treatment Centers Is Now Unethical

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QUICK TAKEAWAY:
  • In a two-part Q&A, addiction psychiatrist Adam Bisaga talks about his new book, Overcoming Opioid Addiction.
  • In Part 1, Bisaga argues why it has now become unethical to refer patients to most opioid treatment facilities in the US.
  • “This is the most lethal of all psychiatric disorders.”
  • “Up to two percent of [opioid use disorder] patients every year will die—one in 50. … So if you’re using for 10 years, your chance of dying is about one in five.”
  • “Right now, more than 50% of patients would not have a place to go for treatment, and many of those places that take patients do not offer effective treatment. Would that be acceptable for any other disorder?”

Continue reading “Q&A Pt 1: Adam Bisaga, MD: Referring Patients to Most Opioid Treatment Centers Is Now Unethical”

At NJ Hospitals, Ex-Users Urge Opioid Overdose Victims to Seek Treatment

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Recovery specialist Eric McIntire’s inmate ID card from before his recovery.
QUICK TAKEAWAY
    • Traditionally, hospitals stabilized and discharged overdose victims, leaving patients vulnerable to relapse.
    • Among overdose survivors who shoot heroin, half will eventually die of overdose.
    • NJ hospitals are now hiring ex-addicts, like Eric McIntire, to try to persuade overdose victims to seek treatment.

Continue reading “At NJ Hospitals, Ex-Users Urge Opioid Overdose Victims to Seek Treatment”