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Fentanyl Overdose Murder Case, Puff ECs Present Health Hazard, and Discoveries About "Nic-Sickness"
Here is a recap of some of the top industry-related news stories of the week:
Fentanyl overdose murder case is first of its kind in Tallahassee
A Tallahassee man is now among a growing list of accused drug dealers who are charged with murder in connection with deadly fentanyl overdoses.
A grand jury indicted Kurstin Hinson last week on first-degree murder charges in the death of 18-year-old Megan Hoffman.
Prosecutors call it a first in Leon County.
“This is the first case of its kind in our office involving a fentanyl-related death,” prosecutor Jon Fuchs said.
Florida’s murder statutes now include fentanyl when it is illegally distributed and “when such substance or mixture is proven to be the proximate cause of death of the user.” That change was passed by the legislature and signed by Florida Governor Rick Scott in 2017.
Coolants in Puff electronic cigarettes present health hazard
Electronic cigarettes, or ECs, contain nicotine, solvents, and flavor chemicals, and are especially popular among young adults. In 2020, the FDA banned cartridge-based flavored EC pods, but this ban did not extend to “disposable” flavored EC products, such as Puff ECs. Unfortunately, the chemical composition and toxicity of the fluids in Puff ECs are largely unknown.
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Portland State University report in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology that the chemicals in disposable Puff ECs are at high levels and cytotoxic — or toxic to living cells.
“Our data support the regulation of flavor chemicals and synthetic coolants in Puff ECs to limit their potentially harmful health effects,” said Esther Omaiye, a former graduate student in the Environmental Toxicology Graduate Program. “The high levels of nicotine, flavor chemicals, and synthetic coolants in Puff ECs, which exceed those used in other consumer products, bring into question the safety of Puff products.”
Secret behind ‘nic-sickness’ could help break tobacco addiction
If you remember your first hit on a cigarette, you know how sickening nicotine can be. Yet, for many people, the rewards of nicotine outweigh the negative effects of high doses.
University of California, Berkeley, researchers have now mapped out part of the brain network responsible for the negative consequences of nicotine, opening the door to interventions that could boost the aversive effects to help people quit smoking. Though most addictive drugs at high doses can cause physiological symptoms that lead to unconsciousness or even death, nicotine is unique in making people physically ill when inhaled or ingested in large quantities. As a result, nicotine overdoses are rare, though the advent of e-cigarettes has made “nic-sick” symptoms like nausea and vomiting, dizziness, rapid heartbeat and headaches more common.
Stephan Lammel, UC Berkeley associate professor of molecular and cell biology said “What we found is that the brain circuits that are activated after a high aversive dose are actually different from those that are activated when nicotine is delivered at a low dose. Now that we have an understanding of the different brain circuits, we think we can maybe develop a drug so that, when nicotine is taken at a low dose, these brain circuits can be coactivated to induce an acute aversive effect. This could actually be a very effective treatment for nicotine addiction in the future, which we currently do not have.”
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