Substance Abuse Newsletter December 2017

The following is a compendium of news reports over the past month that may be of interest to our AG offices who are dealing with substance abuse issues. Neither the National Association of Attorneys General nor the National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute expresses a view as to the accuracy of news accounts, nor as to the position expounded by the authors of the hyperlinked articles.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Sublocade, the first once-monthly injectable buprenorphine product for the treatment of moderate-to-severe opioid use disorder (OUD) in adult patients who have initiated treatment with a transmucosal (absorbed through mucus membrane) buprenorphine-containing product. It is indicated for patients that have been on a stable dose of buprenorphine treatment for a minimum of seven days. For the treatment of OUD, buprenorphine is approved to be administered as a tablet or film that dissolves in the mouth, or as an implant. Sublocade provides a new treatment option for patients in recovery who may value the benefits of a once-monthly injection compared to other forms of buprenorphine, such as reducing the burden of taking medication daily as prescribed (medical adherence). An independent FDA advisory committee supported the approval of Sublocade at a meeting held in November 2017.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has recently published a series of 13 fact sheets designed to increase awareness of the risks associated with prescription opioid use and misuse, as well as to educate patients who are prescribed opioids for pain about the risks. The materials are also designed to provide resources on methods for alternative pain management methods such as acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy, and meditation. The series is titled: The Rx Pain Medications. Know the Options. Get the Facts. The series may be accessed here.

The World Health organization has endorsed a recommendation from the Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) to include carfentanil, an analogue of the prescription opioid fentanyl, into Schedules I and IV of the 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Schedule I substances are subject to strict drug control measures. Additional control under Schedule IV imposes the strongest possible regulations on substances by prohibiting production and supply of substances except under license for specific purposes, such as medical treatment and research. In the case of carfentanil, there is no indication for human use.

Ohio recently awarded $10 million in grants to six companies and a university that have come up with innovative scientific ideas to address the national opioid epidemic. The Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded the grants for ideas that include development of pain management alternatives and a mobile app to improve addiction treatment. The seven grant winners were chosen from a field of 44 initial projects submitted by hospitals, universities and various medical device, software and pharmaceutical developers. A list of the recipients may be accessed here.

During the 2017 “Opioid Abuse Prevention Game of the Week”, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and his office partnered with the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission to educate student athletes, fans, and school officials at more than 100 high school football games across the state. A total of 52 gridiron matchups were featured during the 2017 initiative. The dangers of opioid use were discussed with the respective coaches and educational materials were provided for display and distribution in the schools to foster more discussion of the issue. Each week culminated with the Attorney General’s Office staffing an information booth at the select sporting event to distribute opioid abuse awareness materials.


Legal recreational and medical marijuana sales are anticipated to top nearly $10 billion in 2017, and exceed $20 billion in 2021, cannabis industry analysts said in a new report published by Arcview Market Research in partnership with BDS Analytics. The report also stated that retail marijuana sales increased by 30% to $6.7 billion in 2016. The Executive Summary of this report may be requested on the site linked here.

Beginning on October 1, 2017, Colorado implemented new rules regarding medical and retail marijuana products. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division are working together to educate Coloradans about the rules, designed to promote public health and safety, raise awareness and help people more accurately identify marijuana products. The new rules include: All new medical and retail marijuana packaging must feature the new universal symbol on the front. Examples of the symbols can be found here. Packaging must include the following statement directly below the symbol: “Contains Marijuana. Keep out of the reach of children,” and effective December 1, 2017, marijuana retail stores and medical centers may only sell marijuana with the universal symbol.


Over the last year, more than twenty people have been sentenced to federal prison for their roles in a methamphetamine and money laundering conspiracy centered in Marshalltown, Iowa. Evidence at trial, and other court hearings throughout the case, showed that, as early as the summer of 2013, a group of individuals agreed with each other to distribute methamphetamine. The group was responsible for distributing hundreds of pounds of ice methamphetamine throughout Northern Iowa. Members of the conspiracy sent cash from the sale of methamphetamine to Mexico, either by wire transfer or by using cars to smuggle cash across the border. The investigation cumulated on May 9, 2016 when investigators executed 29 search warrants in Iowa and Wisconsin, and seized over $250,000, six pounds of methamphetamine, and 14 firearms. The methamphetamine had a street value of approximately $272,880. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lisa C. Williams and was investigated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) program of the United States Department of Justice through a cooperative effort of Federal Bureau of Investigation, Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement, Tri-County Drug Enforcement Task Force (Waterloo Police Department; Cedar Falls Police Department; Waverly Police Department; Bremer County Sheriff’s Office; Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office; LaPorte City Police Department; Evansdale Police Department; Hudson Police Department), Mid Iowa Drug Task Force (Marshalltown Police Department; Marshall County Sheriff’s Office; Tama County), and Dubuque Drug Task Force (Dubuque Police Department; Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office).


In order to prevent and deter pharmacy robberies, the Wisconsin Department of Justice and the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin developed a training for local law enforcement and pharmacists. The Pharmacy Robbery Prevention and Response training is provided to pharmacies by law enforcement and teaches pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, clerks, and other pharmacy personnel how to deter a robbery; what to do when a robbery occurs; and what to do after a robbery occurs. The adoption of this training’s content by pharmacies is not required but rather a series of recommendations to make pharmacy premises resistant to robberies. Examples of effective deterrents include: geographic location, categories, amount, and accessibility of drug stock, security equipment, physical design, and management practices.

Joanne Thomka is the Editor of Substance Abuse News and may be reached at 202-326-6269. Substance Abuse News is a publication of the National Association of Attorneys General. Any use and/or copies of this newsletter in whole or part must include the customary bibliographic citation. NAAG retains copyright and all other intellectual property rights in the material presented in this publication. For content submissions or to contact the editor directly, please e-mail

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