The rich poop different: measuring inequality with sewage

In Social, demographic, and economic correlates of food and chemical consumption measured by wastewater-based epidemiology, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, a group of researchers in Australia and Norway present their analysis of a 2016 Australian sewage census, which sampled 22 waste-water treatment facilities and looked for 42 biomarkers. Read the rest

The Sacklers come to Sesame Street as a muppet is revealed to have had an addicted mother

Sesame Street continues its run of excellent, empathetic new muppets to help kids deal with a changing world: after introducing muppets experiencing homelessness, living with autism, and explaining marriage without recourse to gender norms, the show has introduced a muppet whose mother lost custody of her after becoming addicted to drugs. Read the rest

US prosecutors say the "bankrupt" Sacklers still have billions hidden away

The Sackler family (previously) made more money than the Rockefellers when their family business, Purdue Pharma, misled the public about the addictiveness of its flagship opioid, Oxycontin, and induced doctors to overprescribe it, kicking off an epidemic that has killed more Americans than the Vietnam war, with the body count at 400,000 and still climbing. Read the rest

Purdue's court filings understate its role in the opioid epidemic by 80%

Purdue Pharma (and its richer-than-the-Rockefellers owners, the Sackler family are increasingly being dragged into state courts to account for their role in the opioid epidemic, which has claimed more American lives than the Vietnam War. Read the rest

Louvre purges every mention of the Sackler opioid family after artist's protest

The Sackler family got richer than the Rockefellers by marketing Oxycontin in ways that kickstarted the global opioid epidemic, whose body count continues to rise -- more than 200,000 dead in the US alone, which is more Americans than died in the Vietnam war. Read the rest

Scientific study reports that CBD reduces opioid cravings and anxiety

Cannabidiol (CBD), a cannabis component that doesn't get you high but seems to have countless other benefits, has now been shown to reduce heroin cravings and the anxiety that's triggered when jonesing for the opioid. Researchers at the Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai ran a randomized, controlled, double-blind study with several dozen addicts who have been abstaining from use. From their scientific paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry:

Acute CBD administration, in contrast to placebo, significantly reduced both craving and anxiety induced by the presentation of salient drug cues compared with neutral cues. CBD also showed significant protracted effects on these measures 7 days after the final short-term (3-day) CBD exposure. In addition, CBD reduced the drug cue–induced physiological measures of heart rate and salivary cortisol levels. There were no significant effects on cognition, and there were no serious adverse effects.

And from Scientific American:

The anxiety reduction isn’t specific to opioid-related cues and could generalize to other situations, says neuroscientist Yasmin Hurd, first author on the study and director of the Addiction Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “It’s just that this particular anxiety leads someone to take a drug that can cause them death, and anything we can do to decrease that means increasing the precious chance of preventing relapse and saving their lives.”

image: "Ball-and-stick model of the cannabidiol molecule." X-ray diffraction data from P. G. Jones, L. Falvello, O. Kennard, G. M. Sheldrick and R. Read the rest

Fentanyl execs found guilty of racketeering, face 20 year prison sentences

Five senior execs at Insys Therapeutics (manufacturer of Subsys, a type of fentanyl), have been convicted of criminal racketeering and fraud charges stemming from the company's practice of bribing doctors to overprescribe their incredibly addictive and dangerous product, and for defrauding Medicare in the process. Read the rest

UPDATE: New York State goes after the Sackler family's opioid fortune, claims they funneled their Oxy millions through offshore laundries

Update: We have received a legal letter from Thomas A. Clare, of Clare Locke LLP, writing on behalf of the Sacklers expressing the family's concern that the image of a guillotine and the "guillotine watch" tag originally accompanying this post would be interpreted as a call to violence against the Sackler family, who have, per Mr Clare, received such threats. For avoidance of doubt, the use of the guillotine image and "guillotine watch" tag is intended as hyperbole and should not be interpreted as a call for violence against anyone, including any member of the Sackler family. I apologize unreservedly for any distress Sacklers experienced due to my hyperbole, or any concern this raised on their part that violence would be forthcoming. I also apologize for my imprecise use of the word "criminal" to refer to the Sacklers' activities; I have amended the relevant passage to read "alleged criminal," as there have been no criminal convictions stemming from Purdue or its owners' activities in relation to the opioid epidemic or the marketing of Oxycontin. -Cory

The Sacklers (previously) are mostly known around the world as "philanthropists," with their names adorning the wings of galleries, museums and institutes of higher learning; but the Sackler family fortune came from their pharmaceutical company, Purdue, whose deceptive marketing and underhanded regulatory evasion for their highly addictive drug Oxycontin has contributed to the prescription opioid overdose deaths of 200,000 Americans so far, with another 200,000 overdoses from heroin and other opioids likely related to the addiction epidemic created by Purdue and the Sacklers. Read the rest

Deposition of opioid profiteer Richard Sackler reveals his bizarre defense: definitional games and insistence that words mean their opposite

Richard Sackler is the only known member of the powerful opioid family (previously) to have been deposed; the 2015 deposition was published last week by Propublica and it reveals Sackler's bizarre rationalizations for his family company's deliberate creation of the opioid epidemic. Read the rest

Mobile app for detecting opioid overdose

Second Chance is a smartphone app developed by University of Washington engineers to detect an opioid overdose. The researchers tested the app at a public supervised injection facility in Vancouver, Canada with encouraging results. From Science News:

Second Chance, described online January 9 in Science Translational Medicine, converts a smartphone’s speaker and microphone into a sonar system that works within about a meter of a user’s body. When the app is running, the phone continuously emits sound waves at frequencies too high to hear, which bounce off a user’s chest. Tracking when these echoes reach the phone allows the app to detect two possible signs of an impending overdose: slow breathing or no breathing at all...

For real-world use, the researchers envision the app notifying a user if it detects breathing problems and sending for help only if the user doesn’t respond to that notification, says study coauthor and computer scientist Shyam Gollakota. The scientists still need to ensure that this setup could reliably alert emergency contacts or medical personnel in time to resuscitate a person.

Read the rest

Drug-sniffing doggo OD'd at EDM cruise ship checkpoint, given Narcan, will be OK

Jake the police dog was screening passengers boarding the Norwegian Epic cruise ship for the Holy Ship! EDM festival on the ocean. Jake alerted his police officer companion that he smelled something suspicious and then became visibly sick.

"(The dog) started having some problems with balance and had some type of seizure incident of some sort, was showing effects of having inhaled some substance," Tod Goodyear, a Sheriff's Office spokesman, told WFTV. "They administered the Narcan and got (the dog) to the vet as quick as they could."

They gave him Narcan as a precaution as they didn't know what caused the illness.

Meanwhile, police searched the passenger and found "a sedative and other prescription drugs, as well as an amphetamine and Ecstasy," according to WFLA.

It isn't clear what Jake ingested, when, or how. Most importantly though, Jake is expected to make a full recovery. Read the rest

Public watched opioid addict detox on big screens in Greenwich Village

The film above documents "Treatment Box," a one-day installation in New York City's Greenwich Village over the summer where passers-by could watch 26-year-old Rebekkah suffer through the horrors of painkiller and heroin withdrawal. Anti-addiction organization The Truth orchestrated the recording and public showing of Rebekkah's five-day experience that was edited into a single long-form video. After the detox, Rebekkah entered a treatment facility for treatment at no cost to her. From Ad Age:

The scenes of her shaky limbs, nausea, vomiting and insomnia played out on a three-dimensional installation at Astor Place in New York City in June. Passersby stopped to watch a life-size Rebekkah in her room, often huddled in bed, wracked with pain. Interspersed are short interviews where she explains that she was prescribed opioids when she was 14, after injuring her ankle during cheerleading practice. Addiction quickly followed, and two months later, she tried heroin. “I feel like I’m coming back from the dead,” she says on Day 3 of detox...

Before beginning the campaign, the organizations met with a medical ethicist to determine whether the project should move forward, and the treatment protocols were reviewed by Phoenix House, a national addiction treatment program.

Read the rest

Four Thieves Vinegar Collective: DIY epipens were just the start, now it's home bioreactors to thwart Big Pharma's price-gouging

When last we met the Four Thieves Vinegar collective -- a group of anarchist scientists who combine free/open chemistry with open source hardware in response to shkrelic gouging by pharma companies -- they were announcing the epipencil, a $30 DIY alternative to the Epipen, Mylan's poster-child for price-gouging and profiteering on human misery. Read the rest

Incentives matter: after back surgery, a routine urine test resulted in a $17,800 bill the patient was expected to pay

At a followup visit a year after Elizabeth Moreno had a disk removed to successfully treat her crippling pain, her doctor asked her to leave a urine sample; a few months later, Sunset Labs LLC of Houston sent her a bill for $17,800. Read the rest

Doping doggies caught after Iditarod race

If we can’t even trust our friendly four-legged athletes to not use performance enhancing drugs, which athletes can we trust?

The committee responsible for overseeing the 45th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race found multiple dogs from the same team tested positive for the opioid pain relieving drug tramadol – one of Iditarod's banned substances – six hours after the race ended in March, according to NPR. This is the first such case of a doping scandal for the Iditarod since testing for banned substances began in 1994.

The dogs face extreme temperatures and difficult obstacles during their 1000 mile trek through Alaska, which can tempt Mushers to increase their dogs abilities for hefty prize packages.

Image: Frank Kovalchek Read the rest

A deep dive into kratom, the herb that helps with opioid withdrawal

Kratom (previously) is a widely used herb that has been very effective in treating opioid withdrawal and other chronic, hard-to-treat conditions -- it also became very controversial this year because the DEA decided, without evidence, to class it as a dangerous drug, and then changed its mind (unprecedented!) after a mass-scale petition that included interventions from members of Congress. Read the rest

Meth, Hitler and the Reich: the true, untold story of the Nazis' dependence on coke, meth and oxy

Novelist Norman Ohler became fascinated with the Third Reich's reliance on opiods and methamphetamines when DJ Alexander Kramer mentioned it to him in passing; he set out to write a novel, but in Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich he produced what historian and authority on the Third Reich Ian Kershaw called "a serious piece of scholarship." Read the rest