The National Drug Early Warning System (NDEWS) is being developed to monitor emerging trends to help health experts respond quickly to potential outbreaks of illicit drugs such as heroin and to identify increased use of designer synthetic compounds. The system will scan social media and web platforms to identify new trends as well as use conventional national and local level data resources.
The University of Maryland’s Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR) will receive funding for five years from the National Institute on Drug Abuse within NIH to develop NDEWS. “The system will generate critically needed information about new drug trends in specific locations around the country so rapid, informed, and effective public health responses can be developed precisely where needed,” said NIDA Director Dr. Nora D. Volkow.
It is reported that there has been a recent increase in heroin use in many regions across the country. Conventional methods to monitor drug trends may not take note of 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 the information.
Currently, NIDA conducts local level surveillance on drug use through the Community Epidemiology Work Group (CEWG) network. For the past 28 years, CEWG has relied on drug addiction experts to analyze data from various other sources and summarize this information in semiannual reports from major metropolitan areas and some states.
NDEWS will continue to monitor drug trends from this sites by using national and local data sources that in the past have been used by CEWG. To produce a national system to reflect new drug trends that may emerge outside of major metropolitan areas and some of the states, NDEWS will establish a virtual community to enable a network of addiction experts who will communicate with each other.
The plan is to not only detect emerging drug trends but also to dispatch a rapid response team to local areas that report rapid increases in emerging drugs. The information will be quickly disseminated to the public using traditional, social media, web sites, publications, and newsletters.