NIDA switches to social media monitoring for drug abuse trends, outbreaks

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is replacing its community surveillance of illicit drug abuse trends and outbreaks with monitoring of the social media and Internet for such problem.

The new monitoring system called the National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) will be developed by the University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) in the next five years starting this month with funding from the NIDA, a sub-agency of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow said the NDEWS is capable of generating critically needed information about new drug trends in specific locations around the country faster than the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) can do allowing for faster identification of designer drugs being abused and faster response from health experts in containing the problem.

“NDEWS promises to provide the country with critically needed real-time information about changing drug use patterns in communities across the country,” Dr. Eric Wish, lead investigator at CESAR, said in a press release.

NIDA monitors illicit drug abuse trends in local communities to prevent emerging drug problems from escalating or spreading to surrounding regions. For the last 38 years, CEWG does the monitoring by getting data from various sources and having drug addiction experts analyze them and prepare

semiannual reports. These conventional methods, however, may not ask about emerging drugs, do not always provide information about the types of drugs used at the community level, and may need a year or more to collect and report information. But learning that information about designer synthetic drugs – including different ways to possess and use them – rapidly spreads to millions of people through the Internet and social media, the NDEWS was initiated.

NDEWS will be the first national public health surveillance system with the ability to identify emerging drugs and their metabolites, including a focus on synthetics. NDEWS will establish a system of harmonized community indicators for tracking drug trends and emerging drugs nationally, using both traditional data collection strategies as well as social media and web scans.

NDEWS will continue to monitor drug trends in sentinel sites around the country using many of the national and local data sources that have been utilized by CEWG. To expand upon these efforts and produce an enhanced national system to reflect new drug trends emerging outside of sentinel sites, NDEWS will establish a virtual community or network of addiction experts across the country who will regularly communicate with each other to detect emerging drug trends using national and local data sources such as existing surveys, various drug-related listservs and networks, and social media and web scans.

The addiction experts will also communicate to dispatch a rapid response team at hot spots or local areas with reported rapid increases in emerging drugs. This team will assess the outbreak and collect anonymous urine samples – provided by criminal justice drug testing programs – for enhanced analysis that includes testing for synthetic drug metabolites.

The experts also will quickly disseminate information to the public using traditional and social media, websites, publications and newsletters.

NDEWS is expected to play a vital role in mitigating the nation’s drug addiction epidemic by rapidly responding to the problem. The social problem of drug abuse and addiction is currently addressed in part through treatment of drug dependents.

Rehabilitation clinics provide dual treatment programs that combine medication and counseling. There is also the innovative approach called Start Fresh Program, which is also used to treat alcohol addiction.

Start Fresh Program combines naltrexone implants, which curbs an addict’s physical cravings for opioid drugs and alcohol for several months, and a series of private, one-on-one life coaching sessions to help recovering addicts plan for a life free from substance abuse.

BioCorRx Inc.’s (OTCQB: BICX) developed the program and licenses it to rehab clinics across the country. Details of the program are available at and at telephone number 714-462-4880.

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