Showcasing the many dangers and risks involved with substance abuse.

How Fentanyl Flooded the US and Sent Opioid Deaths Soaring

During the coronavirus pandemic, drug overdose rates in America surged. In 2020, overdoses were up by 31% in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The death rate increased most dramatically among Black and Indigenous Americans – rising by 49% and 43% respectively in just one year.

Experts say a large portion of this increase can be explained by the growing prevalence of fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid. The reporter Erin McCormickhas been investigating how the drug became so widespread in the US, and how its rise is rewriting the narrative of America’s opioid crisis.

According to a Guardian analysis of 2020 federal data, those under the age of 24 have been particularly hard hit in this latest wave of overdoses. Among this age group, accidental drug deaths increased by 50% in a single year – taking 7,337 young lives in 2020. One mother who has experienced this crisis firsthand is Perla Mendoza. She tells Michael Safi how her 20-year-old son, Daniel, overdosed on fentanyl after he was sold fake Xanax pills by a dealer on Snapchat.

(Via: The Guardian)

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More than 107,000 Americans Died from Overdoses Last Year. This Drug is Behind Most Deaths.

Deaths from the synthetic opioid fentanyl increased 23% to account for two-thirds of overdoses last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The nation’s drug overdose epidemic worsened in 2021 as deaths surpassed 100,000 in the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics figures released Wednesday show a record 107,622 drug overdose deaths in 2021, a 14.9% increase from 93,655 overdose deaths the year before.

Though the numbers are subject to change as medical examiners finish death investigations and report all cases nationwide, experts say the figures underscore the powerful and dangerous reach of predominately illicit drugs and drug combinations.

While prescription painkillers and heroin drove the nation’s overdose epidemic last decade, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl is now responsible for most overdose deaths. Overdose deaths from fentanyl climbed to 71,238  last year from 57,834 in 2020, according to the CDC.

(Via: USA Today)

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Teen Overdose Deaths are Rapidly Rising, But Not Because More of Them are Using Drugs

Teen overdose deaths have been rapidly rising, even as their drug use hits a low, according to a study released Tuesday.

“This is not coming from more teens using drugs. It’s actually coming from drug use becoming more dangerous,” said study author Joseph Friedman, a researcher studying medicine and medical informatics at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Adolescent overdose deaths in the United States more than doubled from 2010 to 2021, jumping from 518 to 1,146 deaths annually, according the study, which published in JAMA.

In 2021, fentanyl was involved in more than 77% of adolescent overdose deaths, the study said. Fentanyl is 50 times more powerful than heroin and is extremely cheap to produce, according to the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

(Via: CNN)

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Duchess of Cambridge Says Addiction Can ‘Happen to Any of Us’

Addiction can “happen to any of us,” Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge warned while launching an awareness campaign in London on Tuesday.

The duchess gave a speech at the launch of the “Taking Action on Addiction” campaign by the Forward Trust, a British charity of which she is a patron, about the reality of addiction as a “serious mental health condition.”

“Addiction is not a choice. No one chooses to become an addict,” she said. “But it can happen to any one of us. None of us are immune.”

Kate, wife of Prince William, stressed that despite addiction’s omnipresence, it is “seldom discussed” as a serious mental health condition in society.

(Via: CNN)

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Schizophrenia Linked to Marijuana Use Disorder is on the Rise, Study Finds

The proportion of schizophrenia cases linked with problematic use of marijuana has increased over the past 25 years, according to a new study from Denmark.

In 1995, 2% of schizophrenia diagnoses in the country were associated with cannabis use disorder. In 2000, it increased to around 4%. Since 2010, that figure increased to 8%, the study found.

“I think it is highly important to use both our study and other studies to highlight and emphasize that cannabis use is not harmless,” said Carsten Hjorthøj, an associate professor at the Copenhagen Research Center for Mental Health and an author of the study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, via email.

“There is, unfortunately, evidence to suggest that cannabis is increasingly seen as a somewhat harmless substance. This is unfortunate, since we see links with schizophrenia, poorer cognitive function, substance use disorders, etc,” Hjorthøj wrote.

(Via: CNN)

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Demi Lovato Reveals She had Multiple Strokes, Brain Damage After Overdose

Demi Lovato is under no obligation to share the deeply personal story of her struggle with mental health and addiction with the public, but the singer is choosing to do it on her own terms in a new four-part YouTube documentary, the trailer for which was released on Wednesday.

The trailer for “Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil” previews Lovato’s journey prior to and following her near fatal overdose in 2018 and reveals the singer suffered multiple strokes and a heart attack.

“My doctors said that I had five to ten more minutes,” she says in the documentary, speaking about the incident.

In a call with press on Wednesday as part of the Television Critics Association press tour, Lovato said she still deals with the aftermath of her medical emergency.

(Via: CNN)

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While ER Visits Were Down Last Year, Drug Overdoses Increased Amid Pandemic

Many Americans stayed away from the emergency room when the nation went under lockdown for fear of contracting COVID-19 at the hospital. While this led to an overall decline in emergency department visits, a recent study shows weekly trips to the ER for drug overdoses were higher in 2020 than in 2019.

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied more than 180 million ER visits from Dec. 30, 2018, to Oct. 10, 2020, and found that weekly counts of all drug overdoses were up to 45% higher in 2020 than in 2019, according to the study published Feb. 3 in the peer-reviewed JAMA Psychiatry.Opioid overdoses, specifically, increased about 29% compared with before the pandemic.

Overall visits to the emergency room plummeted when COVID-19 lockdown measures were implemented in March 2020, decreasing about 43% compared with the same time frame in 2019. But drug overdoses experienced only a slight decrease from March 29 to April 11, about 4% compared with 2019, before increasing again.

“That all drug and opioid overdose emergency department visits did not decrease in a similar manner to other emergency department visits is especially compelling, suggesting an increase in overdose burden during the pandemic,” study authors said.

(Via: USA Today)

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COVID-19 Taking a Toll: Some Doctors See ‘Massive Pandemic of Mentally Ill Adolescents’

As the coronavirus pandemic stretched from days to weeks to months without end, the mental health of Amanda Choiniere’s daughter Isabella, 16, and son, Ben, 13, began to suffer. Homeschooling, social isolation and the transformation of life to the netherworld they and many other children now inhabit exacted a price.

“When a 13-year-old and a 16-year-old can no longer play sports that they usually play or interact with friends they usually hang out with on a normal basis, that impacts, of course, their mental health status,” said Choiniere, who works, remotely now, for Adoption Rhode Island.

Ben, who attends middle school, finds himself frequently frustrated, his mother said.

“We all know already how hard middle school is for anybody, never mind if you compact it with being home and having to try and learn and having learning disabilities on top of it,” Choiniere said. “There’s lots of not understanding, lots of mom needing to be next to him the entire day to make sure that he’s OK.”

(Via: USA Today)

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Cannabis Use May be Linked with Suicidal Thoughts, Plans and Attempts in Young Adults, Study Finds

Cannabis use has been associated with a higher likelihood of thinking about suicide in young adults, according to a study from the US National Institutes of Health published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Network Open.

The survey study examined data from more than 281,000 adults ages 18 to 34, who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health from 2008 to 2019. These adults answered questions about cannabis use or disorder, major depressive episodes and suicidality — which includes suicidal ideation, plans or attempts — in the past year.

Participants were considered to have cannabis use disorder if they had developed tolerance; used cannabis in larger amounts or over a longer period than intended; been unable to reduce cannabis use; spent a lot of time obtaining, using or recovering from the effects of cannabis; given up important activities and obligations in favor of cannabis; and continued cannabis use despite negative consequences. The study authors said they based their diagnostic criteria off of some of the characteristics of cannabis use disorder described in the fourth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

(Via: CNN)

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Florida Officials Say Dealers Used Dating Apps to Sell Marijuana, Meth and Other Drugs. Dozens Charged in Undercover Operation.

After a six-month undercover investigation, authorities in Florida have charged 68 people in connection with the sale of illegal narcotics on the mobile dating apps Grindr, Scruff and Taimi.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) said 60 people have been arrested, and law enforcement has obtained arrest warrants for eight others, according to a news release.

The probe, known as “Swipe Left for Meth,” began in July 2021 following a tip to Heartland Crime Stoppers, the release said.

At a news conference Thursday, Sheriff Grady Judd said the dealers would use ice cream cone and birthday cake emojis to signal they were selling drugs as well as code words like “party” and “Tina,” which he said stood for methamphetamine.

“It was a shock to us that they were openly advertising,” Judd said. “Can you believe that? They were openly advertising that they were selling dope on a dating app.”

(Via: CNN)

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