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New Synthetic Drug U-47700 Has States Rushing to Stop Spread

From The Associated Press:

A new synthetic drug that can be purchased online and is connected to at least 50 deaths nationwide has several states scrambling to stop its spread, with Kansas law enforcement agencies seeking an emergency ban.

At least three other states — Ohio, Wyoming and Georgia — already have taken action to ban U-47700 after it was connected to overdoses. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said that the agency is studying the opioid but hasn't yet moved to control it.

Nearly eight times more potent than morphine, U-47700 comes in various forms and can be injected, snorted or taken orally.

The U in the name stands for Upjohn, a pharmaceutical manufacturer that developed the drug in the mid-1970s as scientists were looking for a synthetic alternative to morphine, said Barry Logan, chief of forensic toxicology at NMS Labs in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, which provides lab services for government and private clients.

"They were searching for a novel painkilling drug, the holy grail of analgesics that didn't have the addictive or respiratory depression properties of opiates or heroin," said Logan, who recently spoke about synthetic opioids at an international conference in Budapest.

The Upjohn researchers devised and patented several different compounds in search of their super drug, Logan said. Some of the compounds were written about in scientific literature, including methods for making them.

Chemists in China and Eastern Europe can find recipes for many of the drugs — including U-47700 — by combing through online patent records and old scientific journals, he said.

NMS has identified about 50 deaths across the U.S. that can be connected to U-47700, which came onto the company's radar screen in December, Logan said.

A deadlier drug: Doctors suspect W-18 is spiking overdoses

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Legal synthetics have caused "upwards of 50 deaths" nationwide during the last four months, according to Barry Logan, director of the Center of Forensic Science and Education. The center is the nonprofit research arm of NMS Labs, which tests for the substances at its Willow Grove headquarters.

NMS confirmed one death in Illinois caused by W-18 and is investigating its role in another.

"The bigger problem right now is the designer opioid U-47700 and the designer fentanyl, furanyl, fentanyl," Logan said, adding that NMS had detected the two substances in a string of fatal overdoses that reached from Florida to Maine.


AAA: Driver pot test shown to be invalid

From the Rutland Herald:

A report recently released by the American Automobile Association backs up what Vermont lawmakers heard during the debate over legalizing marijuana: There is no scientific way to prove if someone is under the influence of the drug while driving.

The AAA report looked at the states of Colorado, Washington and Montana, which all have thresholds in place for how much THC can be in someone’s system before they are considered to be under the influence. Those states established a threshold of five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.

The report argues that the five nanograms threshold doesn’t work. After looking into the cases of drivers who were pulled over for DUI and had THC in their systems, AAA says a substantial number of those arrested would be misclassified as impaired and those who are actually impaired would not have been flagged by the test for THC.

The report looked into having thresholds from one nanogram to 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter, but it found no level of THC that would back up what police see while conducting field sobriety tests.

Those who frequently use marijuana can show high levels of THC despite not being impaired while occasional users will have the THC leave their system quickly, according to the report.

The report was put together by the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. That lab also gave the state the same results about not being able to scientifically prove someone is stoned when the state commissioned its own study last year.


A drug ovedose epidemic is hitting Northeast Florida

From The Florida Times-Union (jacksonville.com):

An epidemic of opioid use has been escalating in recent years, but a potent new painkiller has made a deadly appearance on the streets.

The culprit — fentanyl — is a synthetic pain-relieving drug 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more powerful than morphine.

It can be a lethal killer when laced with its weaker cousin, heroin, or even sold undiluted as heroin itself.

A resurgence in heroin use means Jacksonville’s streets have become a killing field for fentanyl.

It is taking lives in escalating rates from California to Florida. Statistics weren’t even collected on fentanyl deaths as recently at 2014 in this state; but since then its use and its victims have skyrocketed.

“I signed out three (fentanyl-caused death) cases today,” Matthew McMullin, the toxicologist for NMS Labs, which conducts all the toxicological studies for the local medical examiner, said earlier this week.

Two of the bodies were originally suspected to be heroin overdoses but turned out to be fentanyl.

The other person had died due to an overdose caused by fentanyl patches usually used for pain relief. Four patches were on the body when usually one is enough to relieve pain.

Posted: 5/12/2016 12:02:00 PM

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Expert offers warning signs for parents to tell if children are on drugs

From WFTV (Orange County, FL):

Dr. Barry Logan and his team attended the Ultra Music Festival in Miami in March, not for the music, but to collect saliva, urine and blood samples from concertgoers for federal drug research.

“It's a great venue for us to study some of what's going on in the designer drug market,” Dr. Barry Logan said.

The goal of Logan and his team is to identify new drugs and to help emergency room doctors stop overdoses before they become deadly.
 

Police warn against deadly new street drug W-18

From Radio Canada International:

W-18 is a synthetic opioid considered to be 10,000 times more powerful than morphine and 100 time stronger than fentanyl—a street drug which caused about 270 overdose deaths last year in the province of Alberta alone.

Four kilograms of a white powder seized by police in the Edmonton area in December 2015 was analysed and turns out to be W-18, a drug that is not yet a controlled substance in Canada.

The quantity is enough to produce millions of tablets, say police. Minute amounts can be deadly. Police are concerned that illicit labs creating tablets may not cut the drug properly and that overdoses will result.

Hospitals have been warned to be on the lookout for drug overdoses and deaths that might be linked to W-18. Dr. Laura Calhoun of the government of Alberta health service joined with police to warn the public: “Our message to the public is this: no matter what drug you use, fentanyl or W-18 may be hiding in it, and they may kill you.”

New synthetic drug shows up on streets of Northeast Ohio

From newsnet5 (Cleveland):

There is new drug is on the streets of Northeast Ohio and it can be deadly.

In fact, an overdose death in Lake County is believed to be the first in the state, said Doug Rohde, supervisor of Chemistry and Toxicology at the Lake County Crime Laboratory.

After an alert from Lorain County about a new drug and some more research Rohde discovered it was U-47700. It is a new opioid that is eight times more potent than morphine. It is also deadly. U-47700 is to blame for the deaths of 20 people in 9 states.

The synthetic opioid is so new that it has not yet been labeled illegal. But, Rohde said just because it is still legal does not mean that it is safe.

Cheap Blood Pressure Medication Could Help Alcoholics

From The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH):

Unhealthy alcohol use is unfortunately very prevalent, not just here in the United States, but worldwide. It is estimated that 3.8 percent of all worldwide deaths are attributable to alcohol addiction.

Despite alcohol’s significant contribution to morbidity and mortality, there is still a paucity of effective treatments available for individuals suffering from alcoholism. New research, however, provides a glimmer of hope. A recently published study in the journal Addiction Biology, the Journal of the Society for the Study of Addiction, researchers believe that the drug pindolol, a relatively cheap blood pressure medication, has been shown to be effective in preclinical trials.

“Drugs currently used for AUDs (alcohol use disorders) – acamprosate, naltrexone and disulfiram – have limited success, so this is a ground-breaking development with enormous potential,” stated Selena Bartlett, a professor of neuroscience from Queensland Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. “In an internationally-significant breakthrough, our study showed pindolol was able to reduce ethanol/alcohol consumption, particularly in relation to binge drinking, a key behavior observed in human alcohol dependence.”


Posted: 4/15/2016 11:48:00 AM

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Synthetic opiate makers stay step ahead of US drug laws as overdose cases rise

From The Guardian:

W-18 is one of thousands of synthetic opiates that is not scheduled as a controlled substance and thus not subject to criminal drug penalties, and one of a handful of drugs that law enforcement officials and scientists say they have seen in increasing numbers in the last six months, as use, abuse and overdose deaths continues to rise.

Another, U-47700, which is seven to eight times stronger than morphine, has been the source of overdoses over the past year in at least 10 states since the first US incident was discovered in Knoxville, Tennessee, in June 2015.

Barry Logan, the executive director for the Center of Forensic Science and Education, said his lab has been able to track down 17 overdose cases of U-47700. And several other overdose deaths and hospitalizations have been identified by local law enforcement in Florida and northern Texas.

The uptick in overdoses and drug seizures involving opiates like W-18 and U-47700 follows actions taken by the Chinese government to criminalize more than 100 chemicals on 1 October 2015, according to Bare.

Once more traditional synthetic drugs were outlawed, chemists looked to more novel substances instead.

The banned chemicals included the makings of acetyl fentanyl, an illicit version or analogue of the powerful prescription painkiller fentanyl that is drastically exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the US. Flakka, a cathinone similar to bath salts, was also banned.

Logan said chemists are finding the recipes for these drugs from research books from the 1970s, when scientists were trying to invent alternatives to morphine.

“In order to find one drug like that you have to test hundreds of them,” said Logan. The result is that there are thousands of variations of research opiates, most of which were never meant to be tried on humans.
 

An effort to get Ecstasy FDA-approved is moving right along

From Tech Insider:

After veteran Tony Macie came back from Iraq in 2007, he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Macie went to the VA "on and off" and tried the standard therapy.

"And then I kind of just fell off the radar, secluded, and did my own thing and got really dependent on a lot of the meds," Macie explains in a video by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The retired sergeant then became part of a clinical trial organized by MAPS that was testing an unusual substance in an attempt to heal people with who hadn't responded to traditional therapies for PTSD.

That substance, MDMA (commonly referred to as "Molly"), is the pure form of the illegal party drug known as ecstasy. (Most non-research substances that are sold as ecstasy or Molly are not actually pure MDMA and can be significantly more dangerous.) The trial pairs MDMA with psychotherapy.

One of the early studies conducted by MAPS showed that 83% of the study participants no longer showed signs of PTSD two months after treatment, and long-term follow-ups conducted an average of four years later showed that most of those benefits stuck.

Though small and preliminary, the results were encouraging enough to help lead to Phase 2 clinical trials — the second in the three sets of human trials required before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will consider a new drug for approval.

"Phase 3 starts around 2017, and it will take four to five years to finish. So that will put it at early 2021 for FDA approval."

Posted: 3/31/2016 3:26:00 PM

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