Thursday, March 31, 2016

DEA: Deaths from fentanyl-laced heroin surging

A surge in overdose deaths around the country from heroin laced with the powerful narcotic drug fentanyl prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a nationwide alert and the overdoses continue to rise. "Drug incidents and overdoses related to fentanyl are occurring at an alarming rate," DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart said. She called it a "significant threat to public health and safety." Fentanyl, a narcotic often used to ease extreme pain for patients in the final stages of diseases such as bone cancer, can be up to 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is the most potent opioid available for medical use. Doctors prescribe fentanyl in micrograms rather than larger milligrams. Law enforcement seizures of illegal drugs containing fentanyl more than tripled between 2013 and 2014. The National Forensic Laboratory Information System, which collects data from state and local police labs, reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013. DEA has also warned law enforcement to handle such seizures carefully because fentanyl can be absorbed through the skin or accidentally inhaled. In New Jersey, state police have noted three spikes in fentanyl-related incidents since December 2013. The next summer, police responded to 58 incidents, including seven fatal overdoses in two coastal counties, says Lt. Juan Colon, assistant bureau chief of the information and intelligence support bureau at the regional operations intelligence center for the New Jersey State Police. The most recent spate occurred from Jan. 23 to Feb. 10 in Atlantic County, Colon said. In one 12-hour period, police responded to six overdoses, he said. "These drugs, opioids and opiates, are killing people, especially when you're buying them off the street. You don't know what you're getting," Colon said. "If you do drugs, you're taking a gamble." Prosecutors in New York last week charged two men with dealing heroin laced with fentanyl after one of their alleged customers in Hamburg, N.Y., overdosed and died on Feb. 28. Police found text messages from the alleged dealer, John Haak, 33, of Evans, N.Y., warning his customer to be careful with the heroin because of the fentanyl, court papers say. In October, a grand jury in Massachusetts indicted three men from the state's North Shore for dealing heroin and fentanyl. The charges stemmed from an investigation following a rash of heroin and fentanyl overdose deaths in Salem a few months earlier. Police reported several major fentanyl seizures in 2014, including a 26-pound seizure in California that was traced to a Mexican drug cartel. Fentanyl-laced heroin caused an epidemic of overdoses between 2005 and 2007, when more than 1,000 people in Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia died. The DEA traced the fentanyl to a single lab in Mexico, which was shut down.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Law Enforcement Sees More High-Potency Marijuana, Called “Shatter”

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in Houston are seeing an increasing amount of a type of high-potency marijuana known as “shatter.” Some forms of shatter have as much as 90 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. That is about five times the potency of unrefined smoked marijuana. It is more powerful than standard hash oil. Shatter is a thin, hard layer that is similar to glass. It can shatter if dropped. The drug, also called wax or 710, is a concentrated form of marijuana oil. “If you’re looking at something that has three, five, seven, or nine percent THC content, that’s a drastic difference to somebody that is consuming something with 80 or 90 percent THC content,” said Wendell Campbell, DEA special agent. Houston DEA agents report an increase in marijuana concentrate seizures in the past year, the article notes. The concentrates are often hidden in beauty product containers. The Drug Enforcement Administration, in its 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment, said that marijuana concentrates are growing in popularity and that the drug’s ease of use through portable vaporizers presented new challenges to law enforcement. “Marijuana concentrates are extracted from leafy marijuana in many ways, but the most frequently used, and potentially most dangerous, method is butane extraction,” the DEA stated. “The butane extraction method uses highly flammable butane gas and has resulted in numerous explosions and injuries, particularly on the West Coast, where production is most common.” In December, The Washington Post reported shatter is appearing on the East Coast. The product is legal for recreational use in Colorado and Washington, and is sold in medical marijuana dispensaries in other states, the newspaper notes. It is faster-acting and much more easily hidden than marijuana.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Prescription Drugs in the Workplace

It's a national epidemic. Prescription drugs kill more people in the United States - about 47,000 people every year - than motor vehicle crashes. Opioid painkillers are the biggest culprit, killing 52 people every day, but antidepressants, sleeping pills and other drugs also are being misused at an alarming rate. You'd think such a widespread problem would be front-page news, but surprisingly, many people don't know about it, doctors continue to over-prescribe and the death rate continues to rise. Employers have a huge role in helping end these unnecessary deaths. Did you know employer-supported treatment yields better recovery rates than treatment initiated by friends and family members? Does that sound like a lot of responsibility for you as an employer? It is. Case Study: Indiana Eighty percent of Indiana employers have been impacted by prescription drug abuse in their workplaces, according to a survey conducted by the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force. Two-thirds of employers believe prescription drugs are a bigger problem than illegal drugs, and drug poisonings have increased fivefold in Indiana since 1999. Interestingly, though 80% of employers have experienced this problem, only 53% have a written policy on prescription drugs. And of those who do drug testing, only 52% test for commonly abused opioids. While this survey specifically focused on Indiana employers, the results reflect national trends, according to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. In fact, most deaths from prescription drug overdose are working-age adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to safety concerns, there is a very real cost attached to drug misuse and abuse in the workplace: • Absenteeism • High turnover • Injury and accidents • Workers compensation costs • Healthcare costs • Theft Expanded Drug Testing and Policy Employer-initiated treatment does work. Employers in Indiana said they want to help their employees recover and come back to work; they're seeing addiction as an illness and not a personal failure, according to the survey. In addition to expanding drug testing panels to include opioids, training employees is key. • Form a team of both internal employees and external experts - doctors, law enforcement, wellness vendors, even a coroner who can speak to the death rates related to prescription drug overdose • Identify resources; how much money is in the budget for training? • Develop policies and procedures on drug testing, disciplinary action, education and training, and remember that doctors who treat your employees won't know your company policy • If an employee doesn't tell you they are taking prescription drugs, you won't know unless an accident occurs; engage employees so they will step up and identify concerning behavior • Maintain or develop a relationship with local law enforcement • Treat substance abuse as a disease • When an employee does return to the workforce, reintegration should involve continued treatment, random drug screening and limited stress in the workplace For more information on Drug Free Workplace Training or examples of drug panels that include expanded opiates contact Mobile Medical Corporation 888-662-8358 ext. 201.