Addiction, Author Interviews, Columbia, JAMA / 05.02.2021 Interview with: Elodie C. Warren, MPH Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health Graduate What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: We know that the US has been experiencing an opioid crisis for the past two decades. And we know that among communities of color, rates of overdose deaths are continuing to increase, even though overall national rates decreased between 2017 and 2018. To better understand how the opioid crisis has differently affected racial/ethnic groups, we looked at how heroin treatment admissions changed over time by race/ethnicity, age, and sex. We found that there were stark differences when comparing non-Hispanic Black men and women to non-Hispanic White men and women. Importantly, our study suggests the existence of an aging cohort of Black men and women (likely including survivors of a heroin epidemic that hit urban areas more than 40 years ago) that continues to struggle with heroin addiction. This points to the need for targeted interventions in chronically underserved communities.  (more…)
Addiction, Alcohol, Author Interviews, Cannabis, Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Opiods / 21.08.2019 Interview with: Greg Midgette, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice University of Maryland What is the background for this study? Response: This report estimates marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine use in the U.S. between 2006 and 2016 on three dimensions: the number of past-month chronic users per year, where "chronic" has previously been defined as consuming the drug at least four days in the past month, expenditure per drug among those users, and consumption of each drug. These measures are meant to aid the public and policy makers' understanding of changes in drug use, outcomes, and policies.   (more…)
Author Interviews, CDC, Opiods / 09.08.2019 Interview with: Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH Senior Health Economist Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention CDC What is the background for this study? Response: In 2017, among the 70,237 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 47,600 (67.8%) involved prescription or illicit opioids. Distribution of the opioid receptor antagonist naloxone to reverse overdose is a key part of the public health response to the opioid overdose epidemic. The 2016 CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain recommended clinicians consider offering naloxone when overdose risk factors, such as history of overdose or opioid use disorder, higher opioid dosages, or concurrent benzodiazepine use, are present. However, recent analyses examining pharmacy-based naloxone dispensing are lacking. To address this gap and to inform future overdose prevention and response efforts, CDC examined trends and characteristics of naloxone dispensed from retail pharmacies at the national and county level in the United States. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Opiods, Pediatrics, UCSD / 17.07.2019 Interview with: Lorraine Kelley-Quon, MD, MSHS, FAAP Assistant Professor | Division of Pediatric Surgery Children's Hospital Los Angeles Department of Surgery & Preventive Medicine Keck School of Medicine of USC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?  Response: Prescription opioids are pharmacologically similar to heroin, and previous research has shown an association between nonmedical opioid use and heroin use. This is the first study to follow a group of teenagers through all 4 years of high school and identify an association between nonmedical prescription opioid use and later heroin use. (more…)
Annals Internal Medicine, Author Interviews, Heart Disease, Infections, Opiods / 04.12.2018 Interview with: Asher Schranz, MD Division of Infectious Disease Department of Medicine UNC School of Medicine What is the background for this study? Response: The opioid crisis has led to several major infectious diseases concerns, including HIV and Hepatitis C. Drug use-associated infective endocarditis (DUA-IE) is a less commonly discussed consequence of the opioid epidemic. DUA-IE is an infection of one or more heart valves that occurs from injecting drugs. It can be a severe, life-threatening infection and requires a long course of intravenous antibiotics as well as, in some cases, open heart surgery to replace an infected heart valve. Several studies over the past few years have shown that DUA-IE has been increasing. Our study examined hospital discharges in North Carolina statewide from 2007 to 2017. We sought to update trends in DUA-IE and describe how much heart valve surgery was being performed for DUA-IE. We also aimed to report the demographics of persons who are undergoing heart valve surgery for DUA-IE and the charges, lengths of stay and outcomes of these hospitalizations.  (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Opiods, Vaccine Studies / 22.02.2018 Interview with: “Syringe and Vaccine” by NIAID is licensed under CC BY 2.0Candy Hwang, Ph.D. The Scripps Research Institute La Jolla, CA 92037 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our heroin vaccine is designed to stimulate antibodies to recognize and bind heroin, preventing passage of drug molecules to the brain. By essentially blocking the “high” from heroin, we believe this will assist recovering addicts from relapsing. Last year, we reported a heroin vaccine that was shown to be effective in both mouse and non-human primate models. In this current study, we were interested in enhancing our heroin vaccine by exploring different vaccine components and dosages. Once we discovered the most promising vaccine formulations, we wanted to see if our vaccines would be stable under different storage conditions. We found that our heroin vaccine was shelf stable under different temperatures and as a powder or in liquid form, meaning that the vaccine will remain stable for transport and storage. The best vaccine formulation from these studies showed protection against lethal doses of heroin. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Opiods, University of Pittsburgh / 05.02.2018 Interview with: “MEXICO-DRUGS/” by Claudio Toledo is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kathleen Creppage, M.P.H., C.P.H. Doctoral candidate Graduate School of Public Health University of Pittsburgh What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: In the U.S., fatal heroin overdoses have increased in the past decade by 300 percent, with fentanyl – a substance that is 20 to 50 times more potent than heroin – and its analogs increasingly contributing to overdoses. The drug often is implicated in clusters of overdose deaths when it is mixed with heroin and users do not realize what they are taking is more powerful than usual. We analyzed the test results of 16,594 stamp bags seized as evidence by law enforcement authorities in Allegheny County that were submitted to the county’s Office of the Medical Examiner for laboratory testing from 2010 through 2016. Stamp bags are small wax packets that contain mixtures of illicit drugs, most commonly heroin, packaged for sale and sometimes stamped with a graphical logo by drug dealers to market their contents. Before 2014, none of the tested bags contained fentanyl. By 2016 it was found in 15.5 percent of the tested stamp bags, with 4.1 percent containing fentanyl as the only controlled substance present. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, CDC, Cocaine / 20.10.2017 Interview with: “Pills” by Kurtis Garbutt is licensed under CC BY 2.0Christopher M. Jones, PharmD Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation Office of the Secretary U.S. Department of Health and Human Services What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury death in the United States, resulting in approximately 52,000 deaths in 2015. Although prescription drugs, in particular opioid pain relievers, were primarily responsible for the rapid expansion of this large and growing public health crisis, illicit drugs (heroin, illicit fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamines) now are contributing substantially to the problem. Understanding differences in illicit drug use, illicit drug use disorders, and overall drug overdose deaths in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas is important for informing public health programs, interventions, and policies. We found that the prevalence of self-reported past-month use of illicit drugs increased significantly across urban status (large metropolitan, small metropolitan, and nonmetropolitan) between 2003-2005 and 2012-2014. Prevalence was higher for males than females, however, in the large metropolitan group, the percentage increase in prevalence from 2003–2005 to 2012–2014 was greater for females (23.4%) than for males (21.6%). There were notable differences by age. During 2012–2014, respondents aged 18–25 years had the highest prevalence of past-month use of illicit drugs for all urban levels. For respondents in this age group, the prevalence increased slightly from 2003–2005 to 2012–2014 in large metropolitan areas while the prevalence remained stable among small metropolitan area respondents and nonmetropolitan area respondents. Past-month use of illicit drugs declined over the study period for the youngest respondents (aged 12–17 years), with the largest decline among small metropolitan area youth. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, Opiods, PLoS / 10.06.2017 Interview with: A. Simon Pickard, PhD Professor, Dept of Pharmacy Systems, Outcomes and Policy University of Ilinois at Chicago College of Pharmacy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The heroin epidemic, which has left virtually no part of American society unscathed, can be viewed as an illness.  Unlike some illnesses, however, it was largely manufactured by stakeholders in the healthcare system, wittingly or unwittingly. The main finding, that heroin addiction costs us just over $50 billion per year, is likely a conservative estimate. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, CDC, Opiods / 09.12.2016 Interview with: Cyprian Wejnert, Ph.D. National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention CDC What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our country is dealing with a devastating epidemic of opioid misuse and overdose that affects individuals, families and communities. We have long known that sharing needles and syringes is an incredibly efficient route for HIV, hepatitis and other infections to spread. Yet, about 10% of annual HIV diagnoses in the United States occur among people who inject drugs, and there are clusters of hepatitis C infections across the country. These infections can be prevented when people who inject drugs use sterile needles, syringes and other injection equipment. One of the main findings of this study is that use of syringe services programs (SSPs) has increased substantially during the past decade, but most people who inject drugs still don’t always use sterile needles. The analysis finds that more than half (54%) of people who inject drugs in 22 cities with a high number of HIV cases reported in 2015 they used an SSP in the past year, compared to only about one-third (36%) in 2005. Although syringe services program use has increased, findings indicate that too few people who inject drugs use only sterile needles. One in three (33%) reported in 2015 that they had shared a needle within the past year – about the same percentage that reported sharing a decade ago (36% in 2005). The report also highlights some successes in HIV prevention among African Americans and Latinos who inject drugs, as well as concerning trends in whites who inject drugs. From our study of 22 urban areas, it appears that fewer African Americans are injecting drugs. However, it also appears there has been an increase in white Americans injecting drugs. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, CHEST, Toxin Research / 01.11.2016 Interview with: Guy Soo Hoo, MD West Los Angeles VA Medical Center Los Angeles, CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Wound botulism occurs as a result of infection by material contaminated with C. botulinum. While typically associated with trauma and crush injury, it is also an infection associated with injection drug users especially with “skin popping”. Black tar heroin is an especially common vehicle for the development of wound botulism. Black tar heroin is the predominant form of heroin used in the western United States and there has been an epidemic of wound botulism cases associated with black tar heroin users especially in California. In fact, the vast majority of wound botulism cases in California occurs in injection drug users, specifically those who inject the drug subcutaneously or intramuscularly. The typical presentation in wound botulism in an acute neurologic illness with cranial nerve palsies, flaccid descending paralysis. Respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilation may occur and may require an extended period of ventilator support for recovery. A high index of suspicion as well as general supportive care is needed for optimal treatment and recovery. Optimal treatment includes wound debridement, early administration of botulinum antitoxin and penicillin therapy. This case is unique in that the initial presentation was bilateral vocal cord paralysis and cranial nerve function was initially intact. The patient subsequently developed a flaccid paralysis that included cranial nerve palsies, functional quadriplegia and respiratory failure. He recovered to be discharged to a rehabilitation facility about six weeks after his initial presentation. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Columbia, Opiods / 03.10.2016 Interview with: Silvia S. Martins, MD, PHD Associate Professor of Epidemiology Department of Epidemiology Mailman School Of Public Health Columbia University New York, NY 10032 What is the background for this study? Response: Given the high probability of nonmedical use among adolescents and young adults, the potential development of prescription opioid use disorder secondary to nonmedical use among youth represents an important and growing public health concern. Still, no study had investigated time trends, specifically if prescription opioid use disorder has increased in the past decade among adolescents, emerging adults and young adults who are nonmedical users of prescription opioids. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Opiods, Pharmacology / 13.03.2015

Theodore J. Cicero, PhD Professor, Vice Chairman for Research Department of Psychiatry, Washington University St Louis, Interview with: Theodore J. Cicero, PhD Professor, Vice Chairman for Research Department of Psychiatry, Washington University St Louis, Missouri MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Cicero: Prescription opiate abuse (eg Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin) has reached epidemic proportions in this country over the past decade. Although most people swallow the drugs whole, a relatively large number either chew the drugs to produce an immediate delivery of large quantities of drugs or they crush them and/or dissolve them in some solvent which makes them useful for intranasal (eg snorting) or intravenous administration. Non-oral routes, particularly injection, represent the most serious public health risk due to a high incidence of infection, including Hepatitis C and HIV, and the much greater severity of abuse. In an effort to reduce these practices, drug companies are introducing so-called abuse deterrent formulations (ADF) which are resistant to crushing or dissolving in an aqueous solution. In one such important effort, the company responsible for distributing one of the most widely abused prescription opiates, OxyContin, introduced an ADF in 2010. Although the abuse deterrent formulations was highly successful in reducing abuse of OxyContin by either chewing, crushing, or dissolving in water, there was none-the-less a clear limit to how effective it was. For example, some people simply switched to the oral route of administration or never did snort or inject the drug, whereas a small number found ways to defeat the abuse deterrent formulations and persisted in harmful patterns of abuse. Unfortunately, there was also an unintended result. ADF-OxyContin caused many individuals to abandon the use of OxyContin - a good thing - in favor of other opiates (a bad thing). Most serious, however, was that 70% of those who switched drugs moved from OxyContin to heroin abuse. Although by no means the only factor, the abuse deterrent formulations has contributed to the wide-spread reports of heroin abuse in suburban and rural Caucasian male and females, a group here-to-fore not the typical heroin users (i.e. poor minorities, living in large urban centers). (more…)
Author Interviews, NEJM, Opiods, Pharmacology / 29.01.2015

Richard C. Dart, M.D., Ph.D Denver Health & Hospital Authority Professor, University of Colorado School of Interview with: Richard C. Dart, M.D., Ph.D Denver Health & Hospital Authority Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Dart: For the past two decades, prescription opioid medication abuse has increased significantly in the US. An estimated 25 million people initiated nonmedical use of pain relievers between 2002 and 2011.  In 2010 the number of death attributed to prescription opioid medications reached 16,651. The  RADARS® System (Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction Related Surveillance) has been monitoring prescription drug abuse and diversion for over 13 years. We use a “mosaic” approach, measuring abuse and diversion from multiple perspectives, to describe this hidden phenomenon as comprehensively as possible. For the current publication we used 5 separate RADARS® System programs to collect data and the study period was from January 2002 through December 2013. We noticed a substantial increase  of prescription drug abuse from 2002 through 2010, followed by a flattening or decrease in 2010 and, lastly, a decline in 2011 through 2013. We also noticed a similar pattern in opioid-related deaths. Nonmedical use did not change significantly among college students. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, JAMA, Pharmacology / 31.05.2014

Theodore J. Cicero, PhD Professor, Vice Chairman for Research Department of Psychiatry Washington University in St Louis St Louis, Interview with: Theodore J. Cicero, PhD Professor, Vice Chairman for Research Department of Psychiatry Washington University in St Louis St Louis, Missouri MedicalResearch: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Cicero: Heroin users nowadays are predominantly white men and women in their late 20s living outside large urban areas who were first introduced to opioids through prescription drugs compared to the 1960s when heroin users tended to be young urban men whose opioid abuse started with heroin. (more…)