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

Opioid Epidemic Fuels Increase in Cocaine-Related Overdose Deaths

A growing number of people are dying from cocaine-related overdoses because they are mixing the drug with opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Cocaine can result in overdose on its own, the article notes. It is not known whether people are mixing the drugs intentionally, or are unknowingly taking tainted products.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cocaine was responsible for the second-most drug-overdose deaths in 2014. Cocaine-related deaths have risen in recent years, after declining steadily, even though there did not appear to be a significant increase in the drug’s availability.

Full story of opioid epidemic increases cocaine-related overdoses at drugfree.org

Heroin Tops the List of Drugs Most Frequently Involved in Overdose Deaths

Heroin was the drug most often involved in overdose deaths between 2010 and 2014, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other drugs commonly involved in overdoses included oxycodone, methadone, morphine, morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium).

More than 47,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2014, up from more than 38,000 in 2010.

Full story of heroin most involved in overdoses at drugfree.org