Many Drug Dealers Test Strength of Synthetic Opioids on Customers

Many drug dealers use their customers to test the strength of the synthetic opioids they sell, the Associated Press reports. They want the drugs to be strong enough to keep their customers coming back, but not strong enough to kill them.

Local dealers take fentanyl made in Chinese labs and use powders such as baby formula to increase its volume and street value.

Full story at drugfree.org

New vaccine could someday fight the effects of opioid combinations

Substance abuse is a continuing problem in the U.S., particularly with heroin and other opioids, to the point of being an epidemic. Treatments exist, but far too often patients relapse with devastating impacts on themselves and those around them. Now, scientists report that they have made progress toward a vaccine against the effects of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, in combination with heroin.

The researchers are presenting their work today at the 254th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

“There is an urgent need to discover effective medications to treat substance use disorders. Increasingly, drug users are turning to opioids and powerful synthetic versions of these drugs that can sometimes be as much as 100 times more potent than heroin,” says Kim D. Janda, Ph.D., who led the research into the vaccines. “Moreover, many patients receiving treatment relapse.”

Full story at Science Daily

Serotonin contributions to cocaine’s allure

Once a hip drug of the ’70s and ’80s party scene, cocaine is not only making a comeback, it’s proving its staying power thanks to its potent allure. In fact, Drug Enforcement Administration officials say that traffickers are producing more cocaine now than at the height of the notorious era of the “cocaine cowboys” in the 1980s.

According to Florida’s Medical Examiner Commission, overdose deaths from cocaine are at their highest level in the state since 2007. From 2012 to 2015, cocaine deaths in Florida increased from 1,318 fatalities to 1,834 fatalities. Only fentanyl, a powerful synthetic painkiller, surpassed deaths from cocaine overdose in Florida. Nationally, more than 1 in 3 drug misuse or abuse-related emergency department visits (40 percent) involved cocaine.

This highly addictive psychostimulant induces complex molecular, cellular and behavioral responses. Despite various approaches and years of pre-clinical studies, effective, mechanism-based therapies to assist with cocaine abuse and dependence are still sorely lacking.

Full story of serotonin’s impact on cocaine use at Science Daily

Fentanyl can sicken first responders: Possible solution?

Dan Kallen, a detective in southern New Jersey, was searching a home with fellow officers in August 2015, when they found a bag of white powder. Kallen removed a scoop of powder for testing. When he was done, he closed the bag, and a bit of air escaped, carrying a puff of powder with it. It was enough to send Kallen and a fellow officer to the emergency room.

The drugs in the bag had been spiked with fentanyl, a synthetic drug that, like heroin, is an opioid. But it is 50 times more potent than heroin — even a tiny amount inhaled or absorbed through the skin can be extremely dangerous or deadly. Kallen described his experience in a Drug Enforcement Agency video that warns first responders of the dangers of handling unknown powders.

Scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are working to address this hazard. In a paper published in Forensic Chemistry, they report that two technologies, Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS) and Direct Analysis in Real Time Mass Spectrometry (DART-MS), can detect trace amounts of fentanyl even when mixed with heroin and other substances.

Full story of Fentanyl danger to first responders at Science Daily

New Dangerous Opioid Mix Called “Gray Death” Blamed for Deaths in Three States

A new combination of opioids, known as “Gray Death,” is being blamed for deaths in Alabama, Georgia and Ohio, the Associated Press reports. The combination includes heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil and a synthetic opioid called U-47700.

“Gray death is one of the scariest combinations that I have ever seen in nearly 20 years of forensic chemistry drug analysis,” said Deneen Kilcrease, manager of the chemistry section at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Kilcrease said people using the drug are not aware of its ingredients or their concentrations. Simply touching the powder can put a person at risk, she added.

Full story of the new opioid mixed drug at drugfree.org