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Concept: Hydromorphone


Because long-term opioid use often begins with treatment of acute pain (1), in March 2016, the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain included recommendations for the duration of opioid therapy for acute pain and the type of opioid to select when therapy is initiated (2). However, data quantifying the transition from acute to chronic opioid use are lacking. Patient records from the IMS Lifelink+ database were analyzed to characterize the first episode of opioid use among commercially insured, opioid-naïve, cancer-free adults and quantify the increase in probability of long-term use of opioids with each additional day supplied, day of therapy, or incremental increase in cumulative dose. The largest increments in probability of continued use were observed after the fifth and thirty-first days on therapy; the second prescription; 700 morphine milligram equivalents cumulative dose; and first prescriptions with 10- and 30-day supplies. By providing quantitative evidence on risk for long-term use based on initial prescribing characteristics, these findings might inform opioid prescribing practices.

Concepts: Opioid, Pain, Morphine, Psychoactive drug, Medical prescription, Chronic pain, Recreational drug use, Hydromorphone


Opioids are respiratory depressants and heroin/opioid overdose is a major contributor to the excess mortality of heroin addicts. The individual and situational variability of respiratory depression caused by intravenous heroin is poorly understood. This study used advanced respiratory monitoring to follow the time course and severity of acute opioid-induced respiratory depression. 10 patients (9/10 with chronic airflow obstruction) undergoing supervised injectable opioid treatment for heroin addiction received their usual prescribed dose of injectable opioid (diamorphine or methadone) (IOT), and their usual prescribed dose of oral opioid (methadone or sustained release oral morphine) after 30 minutes. The main outcome measures were pulse oximetry (SpO2%), end-tidal CO2% (ETCO2%) and neural respiratory drive (NRD) (quantified using parasternal intercostal muscle electromyography). Significant respiratory depression was defined as absence of inspiratory airflow >10s, SpO2% < 90% for >10s and ETCO2% per breath >6.5%. Increases in ETCO2% indicated significant respiratory depression following IOT in 8/10 patients at 30 minutes. In contrast, SpO2% indicated significant respiratory depression in only 4/10 patients, with small absolute changes in SpO2% at 30 minutes. A decline in NRD from baseline to 30 minutes post IOT was also observed, but was not statistically significant. Baseline NRD and opioid-induced drop in SpO2% were inversely related. We conclude that significant acute respiratory depression is commonly induced by opioid drugs prescribed to treat opioid addiction. Hypoventilation is reliably detected by capnography, but not by SpO2% alone. Chronic suppression of NRD in the presence of underlying lung disease may be a risk factor for acute opioid-induced respiratory depression.

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Drug addiction, Heroin, Naloxone, Hydromorphone, Depressant, Hypoventilation


An improved synthesis of a haptenic heroin surrogate 1 (6-AmHap) is reported. The intermediate needed for the preparation of 1 was described in the route in the synthesis of 2 (DiAmHap). A scalable procedure was developed to install the C-3 amido group. Using the Boc protectng group in 18 allowed preparation of 1 in an overall yield of 53% from 4 and eliminated the necessity of preparing the diamide 13. Hapten 1 was conjugated to tetanus toxoid and mixed with liposomes containing monophosphoryl lipid A as an adjuvant. The 1 vaccine induced high anti-1 IgG levels that reduced heroin-induced antinociception and locomotive behavioral changes following repeated subcutaneous and intravenous heroin challenges in mice and rats. Vaccinated mice had reduced heroin-induced hyperlocomotion following a 50 mg/kg heroin challenge. The 1 vaccine-induced antibodies bound to heroin and other abused opioids, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and codeine.

Concepts: Immune system, Opioid, Morphine, Drug addiction, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone


Prolonged exposure to opioids is known to produce neuroplastic changes in animals; however, few studies have investigated the effects of short-term prescription opioid use in humans. A previous study from our laboratory demonstrated a dosage-correlated volumetric decrease in the right amygdala of participants administered oral morphine daily for 1 month. The purpose of this current study was to replicate and extend the initial findings.

Concepts: Spinal disc herniation, Low back pain, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Magnetic resonance imaging, Opioid, Pain, Morphine, Hydromorphone


Buprenorphine is a potent partial opioid agonist that is analyzed in urine to (i) monitor adherence to maintenance or detoxification therapy and (ii) detect illicit use. Buprenorphine analysis is commonly conducted on urine by immunoassay, but is subject to cross-reactivity from other drugs/drug metabolites, including morphine, codeine and dihydrocodeine. This study reports false-positive buprenorphine analysis [Thermo Fisher Scientific cloned enzyme donor immunoassay (CEDIA)] in patients who denied unauthorized buprenorphine use prior to sampling, but who had been prescribed amisulpride. In two cases, confirmatory analysis by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry was negative (<0.5 µg/L) for buprenorphine and metabolites and positive for amisulpride. Although the cross-reactivity of amisulpride and sulpiride in the CEDIA buprenorphine assay is low (estimated at 0.003 and 0.002%, respectively), it remains a significant consideration given the likely high concentrations of these compounds in urine relative to the low cutoff of the buprenorphine assay. Neither amisulpride nor sulpiride was listed as potential sources of interference on the CEDIA data sheet when this work was performed. These findings highlight the importance of confirming immunoassay-positive buprenorphine results using a more selective analytical technique.

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Buprenorphine, Opiate, Codeine, Hydromorphone, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Dihydrocodeine


A retrospective analysis of oral fluid drug testing results using LC-MS/MS was performed to determine the prevalence rates in oral fluid for codeine (COD) and 3 COD metabolites-morphine (MOR), norhydrocodone (NHC), and hydrocodone (HCOD). Oral fluid samples were collected using Quantisal oral fluid collection device (Immunalysis Inc.) and submitted to Millennium Health, LLC for the routine drug analysis by LC-MS/MS. Consistent with previously published literature, COD was the primary analyte detected in oral fluid after the use of COD. In COD-positive samples, HCOD, MOR, and NHC were detected at rates of 68.4%, 18.4%, and 6.3%, respectively. Concentration ranges of these analytes were 1.0 to >2000 ng/mL for COD, 1.0-20.2 ng/mL for MOR, 1.0-740.0 ng/mL for HCOD, and 2.1-47.5 ng/mL for NHC. In contrast to urine, where HCOD is typically detected as a minor metabolite of COD, HCOD was the most commonly detected metabolite in oral fluid in samples testing positive for COD with reported prescriptions for COD. This observation suggests that care should be taken when interpreting HCOD positives in oral fluid results, and that the use of COD should be considered as one possible explanation for HCOD positives.

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Controlled Substances Act, Hydrocodone, Codeine, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone, Dihydrocodeine


The introduction of extended-release opioid analgesics helped initiate an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse in the United States. To make access to the drug by crushing or dissolution more difficult, abuse-deterrent formulations (ADFs) of OxyContin (Purdue Pharma, Stamford, CT) and Opana ER (Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Malvern, PA), which use the same foundation technology (Intac, Grunenthal, Aachen, Germany), were introduced in 2010 and 2012, respectively. To examine their relative effectiveness, we used a structured survey of 12,124 individuals entering treatment for opioid use disorder followed by a more focused online survey with a subset of these patients (N = 129) using both structured and open-ended questions. Data showed that the OxyContin ADF was highly effective in reducing nonoral abuse (91.4% before the ADF, 47.9% afterwards), particularly with insufflation (78%-28.8%) and intravenous injection of the active drug (42.7%-21.4%). However, although the Opana ER ADF was effective in reducing insufflation (80%-37.1%), injection (60.0%-51.4%), and overall nonoral abuse (94.3%-77.1%), it showed no significant decrease over time. Bearing in mind that the Opana ER sample was smaller in size than that for OxyContin, our results nonetheless suggest disparate outcomes resulting from the introduction of the ADFs, which could indicate that an ADF’s effectiveness may be drug-specific. Given the public health impact of prescription opioids and the considerable effort being expended to develop ADFs as a partial solution to the problem, our preliminary studies suggest that each ADF must be evaluated on its own merits even if the same proprietary technology is used.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Drug, Opioid, Morphine, Hydromorphone, Oxycodone, Oxymorphone, Endo Pharmaceuticals


Nonmedical use of opioids has become increasingly problematic in recent years with increases in overdoses, treatment admissions, and deaths. Use also appears to be contributing to heroin initiation, which has increased in recent years. Further research is needed to examine which adolescents are at highest risk for nonmedical use of opioids and heroin and to explore potential links between nonmedical opioid use and heroin use.

Concepts: Opioid, Morphine, Heroin, Naloxone, High school, Methadone, Hydromorphone, Opium


Few studies have assessed postoperative trends in opioid cessation and predictors of persistent opioid use after total knee arthroplasty (TKA) and total hip arthroplasty (THA). Preoperatively 574 TKA and THA patients completed validated, self-report measures of pain, functioning and mood and were longitudinally assessed for 6-months post-surgery. Among patients who were opioid naïve the day of surgery, 8.2% of TKA and 4.3% of THA patients were using opioids at 6 months. In comparison, 53.3% of TKA and 34.7% of THA patients who reported opioid use the day of surgery continued to use opioids at 6 months. Patients taking >60 mg oral morphine equivalents preoperatively had an 80% likelihood of persistent use postoperatively. Day of surgery predictors for 6-month opioid use by opioid naïve patients included greater overall body pain (p=0.002), greater affected joint pain (knee/hip) (p=0.034), and greater catastrophizing (p=0.010). For both opioid naïve and opioid users on day of surgery, decreases in overall body pain from baseline to 6 months were associated with decreased odds of being on opioids at 6 months (aOR=0.72, p=0.050; aOR=0.62, p=0.001); however, change in affected joint pain (knee/hip) was not predictive of opioid use (aOR=0.99, p=0.939; aOR=1.00, p=0.963). In conclusion, many patients taking opioids prior to surgery continue to use opioids after arthroplasty and some opioid naïve patients remained on opioids; however persistent opioid use was not associated with change in joint pain. Given growing concerns about chronic opioid use, the reasons for persistent opioid use and perioperative prescribing of opioids deserve further study.

Concepts: Opioid, Hip replacement, Hip, Orthopedic surgery, Joint replacement, Morphine, Knee replacement, Hydromorphone


Cannabis will soon become legalized in Canada, and it is currently unclear how this will impact public health. Methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) is the most common pharmacological treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD), and despite its documented effectiveness, a large number of patients respond poorly and experience relapse to illicit opioids. Some studies implicate cannabis use as a risk factor for poor MMT response. Although it is well established that substance-use behaviors differ by sex, few of these studies have considered sex as a potential moderator. The current study aims to investigate sex differences in the association between cannabis use and illicit opioid use in a cohort of MMT patients.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Opioid, Morphine, Analgesic, Buprenorphine, Methadone, Hydromorphone