FDA Approves Nasal Spray To Reverse Fentanyl Overdoses

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday said that it had given regulatory approval to a nasal spray that has proven effective in reversing overdoses caused by fentanyl and other opioids.

The spray, known as Opvee, is the “the first nalmefene hydrochloride nasal spray for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose in adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older,” the FDA said in the announcement, adding that it is also the “first FDA approval of nalmefene hydrochloride nasal spray for health care and community use.”

The approval is yet another step by policymakers in the United States to stem the tide of a nationwide drug crisis. Earlier this month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that overdoses from fentanyl have spiked dramatically in recent years.

In Monday’s announcement, the FDA said that drug overdose “persists as a major public health issue in the United States, with more than 103,000 reported fatal overdoses occurring in the 12-month period ending in November 2022, primarily driven by synthetic opioids like illicit fentanyl.” 

It is also part of the FDA’s “Overdose Prevention Framework,” a program launched last year “to undertake impactful, creative actions to prevent drug overdoses and reduce deaths.” Earlier this year, the FDA approved the first overdose-reversal product that can be obtained without a prescription.

“The agency continues to advance the FDA Overdose Prevention Framework and take actionable steps that encourage harm reduction by supporting the development of novel overdose reversal products,” FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf said in Monday’s announcement. 

“On the heels of the FDA’s recent approval of the first over-the-counter opioid reversal agent, the availability of nalmefene nasal spray places a new prescription opioid reversal option in the hands of communities, harm reduction groups and emergency responders.”

The opioid crisis in the United States has prompted lawmakers throughout the country to improve access to potentially life-saving drugs that can be used in the event of an overdose. The best-known is naloxone, which “has been used for decades to quickly counter overdoses of heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers,” according to the Associated Press.

Opvee works similarly to naloxone, the AP said, and it has “achieved similar recovery results to Narcan, the leading brand of naloxone nasal spray.”

More from the FDA:

“The approval of Opvee was supported by safety and pharmacokinetic studies, as well as a study in people who use opioids recreationally to assess how quickly the drug works. The most common adverse reactions include nasal discomfort, headache, nausea, dizziness, hot flush, vomiting, anxiety, fatigue, nasal congestion and throat irritation, pain in the nose (rhinalgia), decreased appetite, skin redness (erythema) and excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). The use of nalmefene hydrochloride in patients who are opioid-dependent may result in opioid withdrawal characterized by the following signs and symptoms: body aches, diarrhea, fast heart rate (tachycardia), fever, runny nose, sneezing, goosebumps (piloerection), sweating, yawning, nausea or vomiting, nervousness, restlessness or irritability, shivering or trembling, abdominal cramps, weakness and increased blood pressure.”

In Minnesota, lawmakers are pushing to make Narcan available in schools.

“We simply cannot tolerate more needless loss of life. We have to act with urgency and we have to act now,” said Minnesota state Sen. Kelly Morrison, a Democrat, who is sponsoring the bill.

In its report released earlier this month, the CDC found that 69,943 people died of a fentanyl-induced overdose in 2021, which equals to a rate of 21.6 and is up considerably from 2016, when 18,499 died of an overdose from fentanyl at a rate of 5.7.

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University Unveils Free Narcan Vending Machine

The future is now: Vending machines in 2023 dispense cannabis, beer, art, cupcakes, and now the life-saving drug Narcan, as we race into an automated world.

Santa Clara University (SCU) in California announced the installation of a free on-campus vending machine that dispenses canisters of the opioid-overdose reversing medication Narcan.

“Naloxone is a miracle drug that can reverse an opioid overdose within minutes,” Santa Clara University Assistant Professor of Public Health Jamie Chang told NBC Bay Area. “To not provide this seemed really counterintuitive to a lot of public health principles.”

One of the goals is to avoid the stigma surrounding opioid overdoses, and instead see Narcan as a life-saving instant solution. The fact is that people die because friends are afraid to dial 911, or are unaware of Good Samaritan laws that protect people from trying to save a life from an overdose. But students need to have the Narcan on-hand in order to act fast in most situations.

“Our goal for this is to get naloxone out into the community because the more naloxone that people have in their hands, the more chances there are to save a life,” student Isabella Bunkers said.

The vending machine concept is likely coming to a university near you. The Mercury News reports that Stanford University plans to introduce one in a few weeks. “SCU is a party school, so drug use is something that we know happens on campus, off campus or near campus,” said Setareh Tehrani, who helped launch the project.

The idea was inspired by the death of Charlie Ternan, a former SCU student, who died of fentanyl poisoning while his friends thought he was asleep at an off-campus fraternity in 2020.

Photo by Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group

This arrives as one in five youth deaths in California are blamed on fentanyl and opioids, according to preliminary data from the California Department of Vital Statistics. Fentanyl killed a record 5,722 Californians in 2021, much more than the estimated 4,258 people who died in auto accidents in the state and more than twice the 2,548 killed in homicides.

You don’t even have to be looking for fentanyl to overdose from it: Two students at Ohio State University died from fentanyl overdoses, according to a May 5 announcement by the Columbus Police Department, and officials say the fentanyl was disguised as Adderall

While Narcan can cost up to $150 without insurance, most students can’t afford the cost, which is one of the core purposes of the project. Additionally, when someone is overdosing on an opioid, fumbling around for a payment method might take too long to save a life.

“The first thing is that it’s free, and it’s in a place that is widely accessible to students,” said Chang, who helped launch the campus vending machine. “(But even) regardless of whether or not students decide to take the Naloxone, we’re hoping that it at least sends the message that they need to take this seriously and that there are tools out there for them.”

Under California’s Senate Bill 367, public colleges in California, public schools are required to provide access to Narcan on campuses. Some high schools in the state are taking the initiative to provide Narcan for students.

Santa Clara County is considering installing similar vending machines on high school campuses.

“People are more aware of fentanyl. We’ve talked about it everywhere, from Greek life to club sports to varsity sports,” said Olivia Pruett, a senior who studies public health. But Narcan “is only effective if people have it when they need it. This conversation has to keep happening.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Minnesota are trying to pass a bill that would require schools in the state to have the opioid overdose reversal drug Narcan available in the event of an emergency situation.

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Minnesota Lawmakers Push To Make Narcan Available in Schools

According to local news station WCCO, the proposed Minnesota legislation “would require each school building to keep two doses of the nasal spray version” of Narcan, with the station noting that the “policy and funding to support it are tucked inside two House and Senate spending packages subject to end-of-session budget negotiations.”

“We simply cannot tolerate more needless loss of life. We have to act with urgency and we have to act now,” said Democratic state Sen. Kelly Morrison, as quoted by WCCO. “We are thrilled that finally our bill is close to making it all the way to becoming law in Minnesota.”

The station reported that Morrison was joined at a Thursday news conference in St. Paul by other advocates and Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips, a Democrat, who touted “a new bill he’s co-authored in Congress designed to incentivize states to make similar moves as Minnesota.”

“At the federal level, not every state is doing that, so this is complementary more than anything else,” Phillips said, as quoted by WCCO. “It… just simply allows schools to apply for dollars that currently exist. And it’s actually quite easy and easily accessible, but right now they are precluded from doing so.”

The last decade has seen an alarming spike in deadly overdoses in the United States from opioids such as fentanyl. 

A report this week from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that deadly overdoses from fentanyl nearly quadrupled between 2016 and 2021, going from 18,499 deaths and a rate of 5.7 to 69,943 deaths at a rate of 21.6.

The CDC’s report also found a rise in other drug-related overdoses:

“The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than tripled over the study period, from 5.7 per 100,000 standard population in 2016 to 21.6 in 2021, with a 55.0% increase from 2019 (11.2) to 2020 (17.4), and a 24.1% increase from 2020 to 2021 (21.6). The rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine more than quadrupled, from 2.1 in 2016 to 9.6 in 2021,” the report said. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than doubled, from 3.5 in 2016 to 7.9 per 100,000 in 2021. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin decreased by 40.8%, from 4.9 in 2016 to 2.9 in 2021, although this decrease was not statistically significant. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving oxycodone decreased 21.0%, from 1.9 in 2016 to 1.5 in 2021.” 

The CDC said that, between 2016 and 2021, “age-adjusted drug overdose death rates involving fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine increased, while drug overdose death rates involving oxycodone decreased.”

“In 2021, the age-adjusted death rates for males were higher than the rates for females for all drugs analyzed. Among those aged 25–64, the highest rate of drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl; although a similar pattern was observed among those aged 0–24 years and 65 and over, no significant differences were observed between the rates. Fentanyl was also the most frequent opioid or stimulant drug involved in drug overdose deaths for the race and Hispanic-origin groups analyzed,” the CDC reported.

Those troubling statistics have prompted policymakers to take action. In 2021, New York City opened the first overdose prevention center in the country. The facilities are defined as “safe places where people who use drugs can receive medical care and be connected to treatment and social services.”

“New York City has led the nation’s battle against COVID-19, and the fight to keep our community safe doesn’t stop there. After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city. And we will not hesitate to take it,” then-New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the announcement at the time. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”

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Fentanyl Overdoses See Dramatic Spike in U.S., According to Report

The number of deadly overdoses from fentanyl surged between 2016 and 2021, according to a disquieting new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The report, which was released on Wednesday, found that 69,943 died of a fentanyl-induced overdose in 2021 at a rate of 21.6. That is up considerably from 2016, when 18,499 died of an overdose from fentanyl at a rate of 5.7.

According to CNN, the Centers for Disease Control typically “reports overdose data by broader drug categories.”

“Fentanyl, for example, is grouped with other synthetic opioids like tramadol and nitazenes. But for Wednesday’s report, researchers took a closer look at the specific drugs that are included on death certificates for people who died of overdoses, highlighting demographic differences,” CNN reported.

Caleb Banta-Green, a research professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine’s Addictions, Drug & Alcohol Institute, told CNN that specifying the drug that caused the overdose is crucial for researchers.

“We need to know exactly what people are dying from so we know what services they need to stay alive,” said Banta-Green. 

The report found an increase in deadly overdose from several other drugs as well. 

“The age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl more than tripled over the study period, from 5.7 per 100,000 standard population in 2016 to 21.6 in 2021, with a 55.0% increase from 2019 (11.2) to 2020 (17.4), and a 24.1% increase from 2020 to 2021 (21.6). The rate of drug overdose deaths involving methamphetamine more than quadrupled, from 2.1 in 2016 to 9.6 in 2021,” the CDC reported. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving cocaine more than doubled, from 3.5 in 2016 to 7.9 per 100,000 in 2021. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving heroin decreased by 40.8%, from 4.9 in 2016 to 2.9 in 2021, although this decrease was not statistically significant. The rate of drug overdose deaths involving oxycodone decreased 21.0%, from 1.9 in 2016 to 1.5 in 2021.” 

“In 2021, the age-adjusted rate of drug overdose deaths was highest for deaths involving fentanyl (21.6 per 100,000 standard population), followed by methamphetamine (9.6), cocaine (7.9), heroin (2.9), and oxycodone (1.5). Patterns were similar when stratified by sex,” the report continued.

The CDC said that it “analyzed literal text from the National Vital Statistics System mortality data for deaths occurring in the United States among U.S. residents.”

“From 2016 through 2021, age-adjusted drug overdose death rates involving fentanyl, methamphetamine, and cocaine increased, while drug overdose death rates involving oxycodone decreased,” the CDC reported. “In 2021, the age-adjusted death rates for males were higher than the rates for females for all drugs analyzed. Among those aged 25–64, the highest rate of drug overdose deaths involved fentanyl; although a similar pattern was observed among those aged 0–24 years and 65 and over, no significant differences were observed between the rates. Fentanyl was also the most frequent opioid or stimulant drug involved in drug overdose deaths for the race and Hispanic-origin groups analyzed.” 

As CNN said, “[p]harmaceutical fentanyl is a synthetic opioid intended to help patients, such as those with cancer, manage severe pain.” 

“It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and typically prescribed in the form of skin patches or lozenges. But most recent cases of fentanyl-related harm, overdose and death in the United States are linked to illegally made fentanyl, according to the CDC,” CNN reported.

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Mexico Seizes 630,000 Fentanyl Pills in Record Bust

Mexican authorities seized a massive cache of fentanyl pills this week in what they are describing as a record-setting bust. 

The country’s Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that the “Mexican Army personnel seized a fentanyl pill manufacturing center and the laboratory with the largest methamphetamine production capacity in the municipality of Culiacán, Sinaloa,” which is located in the northwestern part of Mexico.

The raid, which was carried out on Tuesday, yielded “629,138 pills of probable fentanyl, weighing approximately 68,576 kilograms,” government officials said in the announcement. 

The Ministry of Defense listed the soldiers’ other findings in the raid: “Approximately 128.03 kg of possible granulated fentanyl; Approximately 100 kg of possible methamphetamine; Approximately 750 kg of probable tartaric acid; Approximately 275 kg of possible mannitol; Approximately 225 kg of probable caustic soda; [and] 28 organic synthesis reactors.”

“Due to the number of reactors, the laboratory is the one with the largest synthetic drug production capacity that has been recorded historically and during the present administration,” the authorities said in the announcement

The defense ministry said that while “carrying out intelligence work to strengthen the rule of law in the country and detect criminal organizations with a presence in said federal entity, military personnel obtained information about a property and an area on the land that was used as a laboratory for the production of drugs in the Municipality of Culiacán, Sin.”

“Derived from the above and from the operational planning, elements of the Mexican Army carried out ground reconnaissance in the vicinity of Pueblos Unidos, municipality of Culiacán, Sin., where they located a production center and a clandestine laboratory for the production of synthetic drugs, for which military personnel implemented a security device,” the ministry said.

The announcement continued: “What was insured was made available to the competent authorities, in order to carry out the corresponding investigations and expert actions to confirm the type and quantity of drugs, as well as chemical substances.

These actions were carried out in strict adherence to the rule of law and with full respect for human rights. In this way, the Mexican Army reaffirms the indeclinable decision of the federal government to continue acting against organized crime, meeting the needs that society demands; Likewise, it endorses its commitment to ensure and safeguard the well-being of citizens, guaranteeing the peace and security of the population.”

The historic bust comes at a time when the United States is also struggling to contain the fentanyl trade within its own borders.

As CBS News noted, Tuesday’s bust “came on the same day that the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the huge number of U.S. fentanyl overdoses that occur annually, currently around 70,000,” with the committee chairman, Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, pressing Mexico to step up its efforts to combat the problem.

“This means asking Mexico to do more to disrupt the criminal organizations from producing and trafficking fentanyl, although a politicized judiciary and incidents of Mexican security forces colluding with drug cartels will make that difficult,” the senator said, as quoted by CBS News.

CBS also noted that “Mexican drug cartels produce the opioid from precursor chemicals shipped from China, and then press it into pills counterfeited to look like Xanax, Percocet or Oxycodone,” and that people often “take the pills without knowing they contain fentanyl and can suffer deadly overdoses.”

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than “150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.”

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Can Drugs Hijack Your Brain?

With legal cannabis across Canada and drugs like fentanyl and heroin decriminalized in British Columbia, the question remains: can drugs hijack your brain? It’s an all-too-common belief among so-called “experts” and the general public. The general idea is that drugs (or food, gambling, porn, etc.) can “hijack” the brain’s dopamine pathways and essentially compel you to behave a certain way. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in the brain’s reward system. The brain releases it in response […]

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Fentanyl Crisis Behind Record Homeless Death Toll in Seattle

People living in homeless conditions in Seattle, Washington are dropping dead left and right, mostly thanks to fentanyl and its knack for causing sudden death by overdose.

Seattle Times reports that according to medical examiner records, a record-setting 310 people died while homeless in Seattle and throughout King County, Washington during 2022. Over half of those deaths, or 160 of them, are fentanyl overdose-related.

That means that fentanyl-related deaths amounted to more than accidents, natural deaths, homicide, suicide, pending, and undetermined deaths combined.

The number reflects a 65% jump over 2021 and an increase of over 100 people from the previous record set in 2018, with 195 deaths. The shocking numbers are alarming public health officials in the area. REACH is an organization in Seattle battling homelessness, providing people with meals, healthcare, and drug addiction tools.

“That’s just appalling,” Chloe Gale, policy and strategy vice president for REACH, told Seattle Times. An estimate of the scope of homelessness in the County last year found that 13,368 people were living outside.

Previously, in December 2020 the area set a recent record for the most people dying without housing in a single month, with 29 deaths. In 2021, 188 people experiencing homelessness died. 

Usually, it isn’t the cold that kills people who are living in homeless conditions. Examiners frequently found a combination of fentanyl and other drugs in the system of people who have overdoses, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The end is nowhere in sight for public health officials. “Maybe we’re plateauing at a really bad rate and maybe it’s going to get worse,” said Brad Finegood, who heads an opioid and overdose response for Public Health, “I don’t know when it’s going to stop.” 

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said despite the rise in overdoses, his administration is pushing to get more people indoors, working in collaboration with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority. 

King County officials said they have recently directed Public Health – Seattle & King County to work with the county’s Department of Community and Human Services and the King County Regional Homeless Authority to help homeless service providers learn more about what’s working and what’s not working to lower the risk of fatal overdoses among people living in homeless conditions.

Last year, Public Health – Seattle & King County distributed over 10,000 naloxone kits, and about 100,000 fentanyl test strips in an effort to reduce deaths. The agency is continuing to promote public awareness campaigns for similar efforts regarding people experiencing homelessness.

Homeless Drug Addiction Efforts

The cannabis industry has gotten creative through the years with ways to do its part to help combat drug addiction involving powerful narcotics such as fentanyl.

Commissioners in Clark County, Nevada passed a resolution in 2019 allocating almost $1.8 million from the local commercial cannabis industry to help subsidize programs dedicated to providing assistance to the homeless. A little more than $930,000 of the earmarked money was provided to HELP of Southern Nevada’s rehousing services.

A California homeless shelter gained 100 new beds in 2019 thanks to donations from cannabis dispensaries in the Ventura County, California community. The five licensed dispensaries that contributed to the cause were Emerald Perspective, Hueneme Patient Collective, SafePort, Tradecraft Ventures, and SkunkMasters, which donated $17,500 of the $25,000 in donations that were raised. 

In the interest of harm reduction San Francisco, healthcare workers in 2020 administered limited amounts of certain substances such as cannabis and alcohol to people experiencing homelessness and addiction.

The San Francisco Department of Health said doing this actually helps keep the addicts in isolation and, thus, prevents the potential spread of COVID.

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Arizona Jail Detention Officer Arrested for Dealing Meth, Fentanyl

Drugs on demand, straight from a jail guard, were shut down by the sheriff at the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix, Arizona.

According to Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, a detention officer was arrested for attempting to bring methamphetamine and fentanyl into the Lower Buckeye Jail in Phoenix, Arizona.

Fox 10 reports that detention officer Andres Salazar faces several drug-related felony counts. A money exchange took place in the parking lot of the jail before Salazar attempted to bring a package containing about 100 pills into the jail.

“This was an ongoing investigation,” Penzone said at a press conference on Jan. 11. “This detention officer was hired in October 2019, recently worked with inmates and some folks on the outside, and attempted to bring fentanyl and methamphetamine into the jail.”

Salazar apparently wasn’t very good at it, a regrettable choice that will impact his future. “We have strong reason to believe this was his first attempt,” the sheriff said.

“This young man, whatever led him to make this decision, will now not only lose his career, but most likely the future that he has for himself is definitely going to be hindered in an adverse way,” Penzone said.

The drug problem is bad: In Maricopa County jails in 2022, 172 inmates were taken to the hospital for overdose or drug-related incidents; 17 in-custody deaths were caused by an overdose, or drugs were a major contributing factor to the deaths; 194 inmates tested positive for some type of drug through a urine sample; and 114 of those inmates tested positive for fentanyl specifically.

The County says that 150 inmate postcards were intercepted in the mailroom that tested positive for being soaked in fentanyl and/or methamphetamine. “Since October 2022, 1,503 detention officers, sergeants and lieutenants were trained to deploy Narcan,” the sheriff said.

A Pattern in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

This kind of thing isn’t unheard of in the criminal justice system: In 2021, Marc Antrim, a former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy, was sentenced for orchestrating a fake drug raid, stealing over half a ton of cannabis and $600,000 in cash from a warehouse. 

Three South Carolina prison guards were arrested in 2018 for smuggling drugs and other contraband into two different correctional institutions. In one of those incidents, a guard attempted to smuggle in 143 grams, or about five ounces of pot into a detention center.

Think that drugs are out of reach in the prison and jail systems? Think again: According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, there are “high” rates of substance use within the criminal justice system. Specifically, some research shows that an estimated 65% percent of the United States prison population has an “active substance abuse disorder,” and they have to get those drugs from somewhere. It’s one of the best arguments to say that drugs won the War on Drugs.

Maricopa County, however, is tackling the problem with some new changes.

Maricopa County Fights Drugs, Corruption in Jail

Penzone is now taking action proactively to prevent incidents like this from happening again under his watch. KTAR News reports that the sheriff announced scanning machines will soon be installed at jailhouses to detect drugs and other contraband entering and exiting the facilities, authorities announced Wednesday.

“I’m at a stage now where I think it’s not only important but appropriate that we purchase scanning machines so that every individual who enters our jail—whether it be staff/volunteers—anybody and everyone who enters into the secured population will be checked to determine if we can mitigate and intercept any potential contraband coming into the jail,” Penzone said.

“If we need to upgrade the entire system in the entire jail system, I’m willing to do that,” Penzone said. “But we’re going to find the one that is the most effective and put it in play in all of our jails as soon as possible.”

Drugs such as fentanyl and methamphetamine rank high in the danger level.

According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this nation. “In 2021, a record number of Americans—107,622—died from a drug poisoning or overdose,” the DEA release reads. “Sixty-six percent of those deaths can be attributed to synthetic opioids such as fentanyl.”

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ACLU of Nevada Sues Board for Classifying Cannabis Under Schedule 1

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada isn’t accepting the Nevada Board of Pharmacy’s classification of cannabis: Despite legal cannabis for adults 21 and over in Nevada, the Board of Pharmacy continues to list cannabis as a schedule 1 substance—having no medical value.

A back-and-forth legal saga ensued, beginning earlier this year, when the ACLU of Nevada filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Cannabis Equity Inclusion Community (CEIC) and a man named Antoine Poole. The case, CEIC v. Nevada Board of Pharmacy, was first filed last April in Clark County court—saying the classification of cannabis defies the Nevada Constitution.

The CEIC is a nonprofit organization focused on policies that will make opportunities real and attainable for communities and people impacted by the War on Drugs. Poole was convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance for possessing cannabis—after it was legalized both for medical and recreational uses.

West Juhl is Director of Communications and Campaigns for the ACLU of Nevada, and believes the Board’s classification of cannabis is incongruent with the Nevada Constitution.

“It’s wrong as a matter of law, because our state Constitution specifically names a number of medical uses for cannabis,” Juhl told High Times. “The district court’s ruling was very clear in confirming this. I think it’s also wrong as a matter of commonsense. The people of Nevada have made it very clear that we want to regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol and to move away from old, obsolete ideas about marijuana from the failed War on Drugs.”

In Nevada, the discord between the state’s Constitution and the Board’s policy mirrors the general discord between state and federal law in states with legal cannabis.

ACLU of Nevada Lawsuit Goes Through Appeal Process

The suit was met with pushback after gaining steam. Last November, Clark County District Court Judge Joe Hardy sided with the ACLU of Nevada ruling that classifying cannabis as a schedule 1 drug in Nevada is unconstitutional. Then the Nevada Board of Pharmacy appealed that District Court ruling shortly after. 

Despite the appeals process, the ACLU of Nevada held their ground. “Despite Nevada voters’ approval of laws to legalize cannabis possession for medical and recreational use in 1998 and 2016, respectively, the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy has failed to honor the Nevada Constitution, Nevada Revised Statutes, and the will of Nevada voters,” the ACLU Nevada said in a press release.

“The idea that the Board of Pharmacy is fighting this, I think is legally ridiculous. There is no basis for it,” Matthew Hoffmann, Partner at Battle Born Injury Lawyers, told FOX5, explaining that the Nevada Constitution was amended in 1998—explicitly stating that cannabis has medical purposes.

Placing cannabis on schedule 1—as the federal government does—essentially means that the Board believes cannabis has more risk than fentanyl and other schedule II drugs. Hoffman said that the federal classification has no bearing on what a state agency does.

“It has been a loophole that has been leading to criminal arrests and convictions over the course of the last two decades,” Athar Haseebullah, Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada, told FOX5. “Fentanyl is listed as a schedule 2 substance, methamphetamine and cocaine are listed as schedule 2 substances because according to the Nevada State Board of Pharmacy, cannabis appears to be of more risk than those substances,” Haseebullah said.

ACLU Chapters Active in Multiple States

In 2019, the ACLU of Pennsylvania sued Pennsylvania’s Lebanon County to allow parolees and probationers to consume cannabis. Despite legalizing medical cannabis in the state, Lebanon County originally chose to disregard state law.

Also in 2019, the ACLU of Arizona targeted the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. The ACLU sent a letter to Maricopa County Attorney General Bill Montgomery demanding his office no longer prosecute medical cannabis patients. The ACLU also demanded that Montgomery stop issuing threats to patients. Previously, Montgomery prosecuted and threatened licensed medical cannabis patients for possessing cannabis products sold at state-licensed dispensaries. 

ACLU of Nevada’s lawsuit against the Nevada Board of Pharmacy remains ongoing.

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Fentanyl Overdose Reversal Drug Stronger Than Narcan Released

A new overdose reversal drug is arming first responders with a more powerful tool for fentanyl overdoses.

Zimhi—an FDA-approved high-dose naloxone injection—was recently released for the treatment of fentanyl overdoses. It delivers a higher, intramuscular immediate dose of naloxone, a higher dose than Narcan.

Narcan, the common brand name of naloxone, an opioid antagonist, has saved lives by reversing the effects of an opioid overdose in spray form. But even Narcan is no match for fentanyl, in some cases. A stronger antidote was needed.

US WorldMeds, a pharmaceutical company, announced the release of Zimhi in a press release, and highlighted a specific event: Clinical counselor Charles Pemberton regularly carried a trauma bag in his truck which contained naloxone. When Pemberton saw a driver passed out at a fast-food restaurant drive-thru in front of him, he administered two doses of naloxone, and probably saved that person’s life.

“At that moment, all my training kicked in,” Pemberton said. “It wasn’t until later that I felt relief that I had naloxone on hand.”

Pemberton added that substance abuse issues tend to come up during the holidays. “Make sure to ask questions and listen, but don’t lecture,” Pemberton said.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that opioid overdose deaths continue to rise annually—primarily with fentanyl. Over 107,000 people in the United States died from a drug overdose in 2021, usually involving opioids. The DEA reports more overdoses are happening as criminals mass-produce fake pills containing fentanyl that mimic other pills.

Adamis Pharmaceuticals Corporation developed Zimhi. It can be used on the fly—rapidly pulling off the cap and inserting the needle into the thigh.

“Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that is used to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, namely slowed or stopped breathing,” the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said. “Expanding the awareness and availability of this medication is a key part of the public health response to the opioid epidemic. Naloxone is a safe antidote to a suspected overdose and, when given in time, can save a life.”

WJXT News4JAX reports that Zimhi was released because Narcan wasn’t enough to revive people in some cases because opioid overdoses are becoming more challenging.

Narcan is a 4 mg nasal spray, and patients are only getting about 2 mg. But Zimhi delivers 5 milligrams of naloxone intramuscularly, and as soon as it’s injected, they receive the full 5 mg immediately.

“Fentanyl, over the past year, they’ve come up with different strands of it to where it’s almost 100 times stronger than what the fentanyl was a year ago,” said Chris Chodkowski, a trauma therapist.

“Even the regular people that just smoke marijuana, if they’re getting it off the street, we’re seeing it laced with fentanyl here in Palm Beach County,” Chodkowski said.

Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach mentioned an incident involving a child exposed to fentanyl by touch.

“It’s only been within the last few weeks that we had an infant that was exposed to a large dose of fentanyl that we believed was an incidental touch contact from the mother,” DeLoach said. “As a result, our deputies got on the scene, and they had to deliver multiple doses of Narcan.”

The FDA-approved drug arms first responders, caregivers, and community members with a stronger naloxone option in the fentanyl crisis.

Adamis Pharmaceuticals Corporation announced on October 18, 2021 that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Zimhi for use in the treatment of opioid overdose. Dr. Jeffrey Galinkin, an anesthesiologist, and former member of the FDA Advisory Committee for Anesthetics, Analgesics and Addiction Products, stated, “I am pleased to see this much needed high dose naloxone product will become part of the treatment tool kit as a countermeasure to the continued surge in fentanyl related deaths. The higher intramuscular doses of naloxone in ZIMHI should result in more rapid and higher levels of naloxone in the systemic circulation, which in turn, should result in more successful resuscitations.”

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