Hospital Treatment Rates for Heroin Surge While Rates for Prescription Opioids Drop

Hospital treatment rates for heroin rose more than 31 percent between 2008 and 2014, while treatment rates for prescription opioids have declined, according to a new study.

Hospital discharge rates for prescription opioid poisonings decreased each year by about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study found.

Lead researcher Tina Hernandez-Boussard of Stanford University said the results provide evidence that people addicted to prescription opioids are turning to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get, HealthDay reports.

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

Cost of Heroin Use in the U.S. Tops $51 Billion

The total cost of heroin use in the United States reached more than $51 billion in 2015, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The cost estimate includes heroin-related crime and imprisonment, as well as addiction treatment and chronic infectious diseases contracted through heroin use, such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis B and C, HealthDay reports. Other costs include treating newborns with heroin-related medical conditions, overdose deaths and lost productivity on the job.

Full story of cost of heroin use in the United States at drugfree.org

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