Pain isn’t just physical—why many are using painkillers for emotional relief

Australians are increasingly using prescription or over-the-counter painkillers to ease emotional, rather than physical, pain. Our cultural understanding of pain is changing, and as a result it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish intoxication from relief.

In my recently published book A Fine Line: Painkillers and Pleasure in the Age of Anxiety, interviewees who used painkillers non-medically said they did so mainly to ease forms of suffering they acknowledge may not be medically defined as pain. Yet they experienced them as “painful”.

The US is currently going through what many term an “opioid epidemic”, while more than 1,000 Australians died of an opioid overdose in 2016, with 76% of these deaths related to prescription opioids. Recently, the ABC reported that the high-dose opioid patch fentanyl has fuelled an opioid dependence crisis in regional Australia.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Crack Cocaine Increasingly Laced With Fentanyl

A Philadelphia hospital is reporting a spike in the number of patients who are being treated in the emergency room for overdoses from crack cocaine laced with fentanyl. Experts say fentanyl is being mixed with a number of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and ketamine.

In a recent four-day period, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania treated 18 patients for an apparent overdose of crack cocaine laced with fentanyl, HealthDay reports. Three of the patients died from their overdose, the researchers report in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine.

Full story at drugfree.org

Drug Overdoses Killed 72,000 Americans Last Year: CDC

Drug overdoses rose 10 percent last year, killing an estimated 72,000 Americans, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

More Americans are using opioids, and the drugs are becoming more deadly as fentanyl is increasingly mixed into heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, The New York Times reports.

The CDC reported that overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids such as fentanyl increased sharply, while deaths from heroin, prescription opioid painkillers and methadone decreased.

Full story at drugfree.org

Data-sharing website may speed the response to new illegal drugs

The drug overdose epidemic currently gripping the nation is so tenacious in part because it’s being driven by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that comes in many forms. Each form has a slightly different chemical structure, and clandestine chemists are constantly cooking up new ones. From a law-enforcement perspective, this makes fentanyl a moving target and very difficult to control.

To help with this situation, scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the German Federal Criminal Police Office (the Bundeskriminalamt, or BKA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency have launched a website where forensic chemists can share data on new drug variants, also called drug analogs. Described in Forensic Chemistry, the NPS Data Hub (NPS stands for Novel Psychoactive Substances) includes the chemical structures of drug analogs and their chemical signatures, which are the keys to identifying them in the lab.

Being able to identify drugs quickly is critical. “If people start overdosing and dying from a new drug analog, authorities need to identify it as quickly as possible,” said Aaron Urbas, the NIST research chemist who led the project. “If you want to focus your resources effectively, you need to know what you’re looking for.”

Full story at Science Daily

Fentanyl Now Most Common Drug Involved in Fatal Overdoses

Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids have overtaken prescription opioids as the most common drug involved in fatal drug overdoses in the United States, according to a new report.

Government researchers found the percentage of fatal overdoses involving synthetic opioids rose from 14 percent in 2010 to 46 percent in 2016, according to NBC News. Of the 42,249 opioid-related overdose deaths recorded in 2016, the researchers found 19,413 involved synthetic opioids. Their findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Full story at drugfree.org