National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Weekly Briefing


Monitoring community health through wastewater analysis: Gator WATCH™ partnership with the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS)

Led by University of Florida faculty, Gator WATCH™ is a comprehensive program of Wastewater Analysis for Tracking Community Health. It brings together a multidisciplinary team to develop and validate community wastewater analysis as a powerful new public health surveillance tool.

Previously focusing on surveillance of SARS-CoV-2, Gator WATCH™ is now expanding beyond infectious disease surveillance to new areas that include monitoring of illicit drugs through a newly forged partnership with the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) Coordinating Center, directed by Dr. Linda Cottler, Professor in the Department of Epidemiology. 'Real time' data will be identified by measuring human excreted chemicals or biological surrogate molecules in wastewater. Initial efforts have led to the development for quantifying fentanyl and metabolites in wastewater collected from 4 NDEWS sentinel sites, and will be applied to a suite of over 70 other drug targets. Data trends will be released soon.

Alert from the NDEWS Web Monitoring Team: Online mentions of Clonazolam

What was found? A seasonal trend in mentions of Clonazolam. Mentions rise and fall with a peak in the summer months. The terms "C-lam" and "clam" were also identified as common slang terms for the drug Clonazolam in seasonal discussion trends on Reddit.

To what does Clonazolam refer? Clonazolam is a designer benzodiazepine drug that acts as a potent sedative.

How is it being discussed? Clonazolam discussion on Reddit follows a seasonal trend. Two slang terms ("C-lam" and "clam") are abbreviations of the drug term that appear frequently in subreddit discussion.

Drug Terms: Clonazolam, C-lam, clam.

Methodological Note: Data was collected and analyzed by the NDEWS Web Monitoring Team, led by Dr. Elan Barenholtz and PhD candidate Paul Morris of the Machine Perception and Cognitive Robotics (MPCR) Lab at Florida Atlantic University. Metrics are based on word counts derived from algorithmic monitoring of ~80 drug-oriented Subreddits. No personally identifiable or post-specific information is incorporated in this monitoring process. For more methodological details, see our recent publication.


Afghanistan’s ‘tablet K’ – a forensic insight into an emerging synthetic drug market

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently published their Global Smart Update. Based on forensic analysis of 500 samples in tablet form, an illicit market for synthetic drug tablets has developed in Afghanistan. Three different types of ‘tablet K’ were identified based on their content: a methamphetamine type, a type containing methamphetamine as well as opioids, and a type containing mainly MDMA. Read the full report here.

Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking final report

The Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking, under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, has released their final report this week. The findings describe items involving illegal manufacturing and trafficking of synthetic opioids, as well as the deficiencies in countering their production and distribution, and includes action items directed to appropriate executive branch agencies and congressional committees and leadership. Read the full report here.

Surging racial disparities in the US overdose crisis

An article recently published in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined drug-related overdose mortality per 100,000 people by race/ethnicity, state, and type of drugs involved from 1999 to 2019. The authors found that overdose mortality per capita among non-Hispanic Black individuals more than tripled between 2010 and 2019, compared with a 58% increase among non-Hispanic Whites during the same period. In 2010, non-Hispanic Black individuals had an overdose mortality rate that was 0.50 times that of non-Hispanic Whites, yet by 2019, that ratio increased to 0.99. Overdose rates among non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native individuals rose from 1.03 times that of White individuals in 2010 to 1.15 in 2019; increases in methamphetamine-related overdose mortality represented the largest component of the increase. Read the full study here.


CDC's draft Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids now open for public comment

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s draft Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids, an update to the 2016 Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, was posted in the Federal Register this week. The proposed guidelines are open for public comment now through April 11, 2022, and interested persons or organizations are encouraged to add their perspectives. Read the notice in the Federal Register here.

DEA launches new initiative to combat drug-related violence and overdoses in communities across America

In a press release sent out earlier this week, the Drug Enforcement Administration announced a new initiative "Operation Overdrive" aimed at combatting the rising rates of drug-related crime and overdose deaths in American communities. According to the DEA, Operation Overdrive, which launched February 1, 2022, will use a data-driven, intelligence-led approach to "identify and dismantle" criminal drug networks operating in areas with the highest rates of violence and overdoses. Read the full press release here.

Postdoctoral Fellowships Available Immediately!

The University of Florida Substance Abuse Training Center in Public Health T32 is seeking applicants for two postdoctoral fellowship openings! 

- Fellowships are sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and postdocs receive an annual stipend and health benefits for 2 years. 

- An annual allowance is offered to facilitate attendance at conferences.

- Fellows would work on NDEWS, the ABCD study or other NIDA funded studies with internationally known mentors.

- UF resources include: CTSA; McKnight Brain Institute; Center on Addiction Research and Education; Arts in Medicine; Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence; UF Health Cancer Center; Emerging Pathogens Institute; Institute on Aging

- The T32 program is directed by Dr. Linda Cottler, and co-directed by Dr. Sara Jo Nixon.

Questions should be directed to Ms. Tamara Millay at Applications are considered on a rolling basis; the program values the diversity of its applicants.

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