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Editor's e-Note
I won’t recite the disturbing statistics of deaths and overdoses resulting from opioid use. We all know we are in the midst of a crisis. More health care providers and patients are considering the evidence-based effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), but for various reasons, it still has a long way to go before being universally accepted. However, there is another harm-reduction intervention that is perhaps the most controversial one, and that is safe injection facilities (SIFs), also called safe consumption spaces in this month’s E-News Exclusive.

SIFs encounter resistance similar to MAT due to lack of understanding and stigma, but a major issue for SIFs is the NIMBY (“not in my backyard”) factor. Read more about the resistance SIFs face in the SWT July/August print/digital issue. SIFs’ acceptance is an uphill battle, but one encouraging finding from the three-city study discussed in the following article is that there is strong support for this harm-reduction strategy among high-risk opioid users. Knowing that opioid users would welcome SIFs if they were established is another tool in helping to address this crisis.

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— Marianne Mallon, editor
e-News Exclusive
Safe Consumption Spaces Would Be Welcomed by High-Risk Opioid Users

A large majority of people who use heroin and fentanyl would be willing to use safe consumption spaces where they could obtain sterile syringes and have medical support in case of overdose, suggests a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In the study, recently published in the Journal of Urban Health, the researchers surveyed 326 users of heroin, fentanyl, and illicit opioid pills in Baltimore; Boston; and Providence, Rhode Island—cities hit hard by America’s ongoing opioid overdose epidemic. About 77% of participants reported a willingness to use safe consumption spaces—sanctioned locations that have been set up and evaluated in other countries such as Canada and Australia but not yet in the United States. Willingness to use safe consumption spaces was even higher, at 84%, among people who relied on public spaces such as streets, parks, and abandoned buildings to use drugs.

The results indicated that 84% of the Boston participants, 78% of the Baltimore participants, and 68% of the Providence participants were willing to use a safe consumption space—the overall rate coming in at 77%.

“On the whole, we found a strong willingness to use safe consumption spaces. This is important because often the voices of people who use drugs are not always included in policy debates or in the implementation of public health interventions,” says study lead author Ju Nyeong Park, PhD, MHS, an assistant scientist in the department of health, behavior, and society at the Bloomberg School.

Full story »
Tech & Tools
Researchers Develop First Contactless Cardiac Arrest AI System for Smart Speakers

Almost 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiac arrest, when the heart suddenly stops beating.

People experiencing cardiac arrest will suddenly become unresponsive and either stop breathing or gasp for air, a sign known as agonal breathing. Immediate CPR can double or triple someone’s chance of survival, but that requires a bystander to be present.

Cardiac arrests often occur outside of the hospital and in someone’s home. Recent research suggests that one of the most common locations for an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is in a patient’s bedroom, where it is possible that no one is around or awake to respond and provide care.

Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have developed a new tool to monitor people for cardiac arrest while they’re asleep without touching them. A new skill for a smart speaker—such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa—or smartphone lets the device detect the gasping sound of agonal breathing and call for help. On average, the proof-of-concept tool, that was developed using real agonal breathing instances captured from 911 calls, detected agonal breathing events 97% of the time from up to 20 feet (or 6 meters) away.

Read more »
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Other News
Methamphetamine, Heroin Mix Results in Seesaw Substance Use
NPR reports on an emerging problem of heroin users adding meth for a “synergistic” high. Researchers who’ve tracked drug use for decades believe the new meth crisis was kickstarted by the opioid epidemic.

Experts Comment on New Study Reporting Rise in Youth Suicides
According to The Boston Globe, a new Harvard study shows the rise in youth suicide and experts and researchers suggest the opioid crisis may be a contributing factor as teens lose friends and family; the availability of opioids (and guns) as a means to suicide are included among other factors.

Maker of Addictive Fentanyl Spray Agrees to Pay $225 Million to End Investigations
The Washington Post reports that Insys Therapeutics will pay to end investigations of allegations that it used a system of bribes to get doctors to illegally prescribe its highly addictive product intended for terminal cancer patients.
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