Postmortem toxicology findings from the Camden Opioid Research Initiative

Dara M. Kusic, Jessica Heil, Stefan Zajic, Andrew Brangan, Oluseun Dairo, Stacey Heil, Gerald Feigin, Sherri Kacinko, Russell J. Buono, Thomas N. Ferraro, Rachel Rafeq, Rachel Haroz, Kaitlan Baston, Elliot Bodofsky, Michael Sabia, Matthew Salzman, Alissa Resch, Jozef Madzo, Laura B. Scheinfeldt, Jean Pierre J. IssaJaroslav Jelinek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The United States continues to be impacted by decades of an opioid misuse epidemic, worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and by the growing prevalence of highly potent synthetic opioids (HPSO) such as fentanyl. In instances of a toxicity event, first-response administration of reversal medications such as naloxone can be insufficient to fully counteract the effects of HPSO, particularly when there is co-occurring substance use. In an effort to characterize and study this multi-faceted problem, the Camden Opioid Research Initiative (CORI) has been formed. The CORI study has collected and analyzed post-mortem toxicology data from 42 cases of decedents who expired from opioid-related toxicity in the South New Jersey region to characterize substance use profiles. Co-occurring substance use, whether by intent or through possible contamination of the illicit opioid supply, is pervasive among deaths due to opioid toxicity, and evidence of medication-assisted treatment is scarce. Nearly all (98%) of the toxicology cases show the presence of the HPSO, fentanyl, and very few (7%) results detected evidence of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder, such as buprenorphine or methadone, at the time of death. The opioid toxicity reversal drug, naloxone, was detected in 19% of cases, but 100% of cases expressed one or more stimulants, and sedatives including xylazine were detected in 48% of cases. These results showing complex substance use profiles indicate that efforts at mitigating the opioid misuse epidemic must address the complications presented by co-occurring stimulant and other substance use, and reduce barriers to and stigmas of seeking effective medication-assisted treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0292674
JournalPloS one
Volume18
Issue number11 November
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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