Helping you stay current in drug monitoring


Illicitly manufactured fentanyls drove overdose deaths across the US in 2020

According to a new study, ilicitly manufactured fentanyls (IMFs) were involved in almost two-thirds of the overdose deaths in the US during 2020, and 40% of those deaths also involved the use of stimulants.

Jun 28 2022

New Draft CDC guidelines for opioid prescribing and monitoring

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is in the process of updating the 2016 opioid prescribing and monitoring guidelines. The open comment period closed in April 2022, and comments will be used to finalize the new guideline. 

Jun 28 2022

Overdose deaths continue to climb in US

The number of deaths by drug overdose reached a new high in 2021 of almost 108,000, compared to over 93,000 in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Jun 28 2022

As COVID Continued and The Opioid Epidemic Worsened, 3 Key Health Trends Emerged in 2021

The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2021 worsened the ongoing opioid epidemic, bringing the deaths from drug overdose to an all-time high. To provide healthcare professionals with the tools they need to keep their patients safe in these unprecedented times, Quest Diagnostics joined with Partnership to End Addiction to examine the factors that contributed to this unprecedented increase, surveying physicians to understand better the barriers they face in their ability to monitor and intervene with their patients at risk for drug misuse.

Mar 01 2022

Changes in fentanyl positivity among MOUD patients

Non-prescribed fentanyl positivity among patients receiving medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) spiked in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, but fell back to approximately pre-pandemic levels within several months, according to a study from Quest Diagnostic scientists. Meanwhile, fentanyl positivity among patients not receiving MOUD oscillated throughout the pandemic, but showed a trend of overall increase.

Mar 01 2022

Buprenorphine induction via telemedicine during the pandemic

Patients commencing buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder (OUD) via telemedicine differ from those commencing in person only in being somewhat younger and financially better off, according to a new study. 

Mar 01 2022

Triple Crises: COVID Pandemic, Mental Health, and Opioid Misuse

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into its third year, it may be easy to lose site of the other major public health crises that predate it. But the nation’s mental health crisis and the opioid misuse crisis have continued on at the same time, and indeed have worsened in the past 2 years.

Feb 24 2022

Physicians predict increased use of gabapentin for chronic pain

Gabapentin is an anticonvulsant and an important analgesic in the treatment of neuropathic pain. It may also be prescribed for chronic pain and has found increasing use for this purpose as the opioid crisis has continued. According to survey results of over 500 physicians, three-quarters (75%) were very concerned about opioid misuse. 

Feb 24 2022

Opioid tapering increases the risk of overdose and mental health crisis

Reduction in dose in long-term prescription opioid users increases the risk of overdose and mental health crisis, according to a new study in JAMA. Guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which included the recommendation for dose tapering under certain conditions, “have led to increased opioid tapering among patients prescribed long-term opioid therapy,” according to the study authors. The study is one of the largest and broadest looks at the risks of tapering.

Nov 11 2021

Genotyping and dose adjustment for chronic pain

The potential benefits of CYP2D6 genotyping were explored in a clinical trial of patients receiving opioids for chronic pain. 370 patients at 7 clinics were placed 2- to-1 to either genotyping followed by dose adjustment, or standard care. After 3 months, investigators found that pain was reduced for the poor and intermediate metabolizers receiving genotyping and dose adjustment, versus the poor and intermediate metabolizers who received standard care (P=0.016), and 24% of those two phenotypes receiving genotyping/adjustment reported an improvement of 30% or more in pain intensity (a clinically meaningful change), compared to 0% in the standard treatment group.

Nov 11 2021

Opioid use disorder increases the risks from COVID-19, especially for those not receiving medication-assisted treatment (MAT)

A study of electronic health records from 52,312 COVID-19 patients in the US showed that those with opioid use disorder (OUD), especially younger patients, fared worse on most measures of disease impact. In the sample, drawn from the Cerner Real-World Data database, which collects de-identified electronic health record information from a wide group of hospitals, 1.9% of patients had an OUD diagnosis. Compared to patients without an OUD, OUD patients with COVID-19 were overall more likely to be admitted to the hospital, stayed in the hospital longer, were more likely to require a ventilator, and were more likely to die from their disease.

Sep 15 2021

Stay-at-home orders increased overdose, research shows

COVID-19 stay-at-home orders were associated with increased opioid-related overdoses, according to a study from Pennsylvania. Prior to the pandemic, Pennsylvania had one of the country’s highest rates of overdose related to opioids, with 2,866 fatalities in 2018. Using data from the Pennsylvania Overdose Information Network, researchers compared monthly overdose reports before and during the state’s stay-at-home order, which began April 1 2020.

Sep 15 2021

High state-to-state variation in costs of opioid epidemic

The per-capita cost of opioid use disorder (OUD) and fatal opioid overdose differed by a factor of six between the state with the lowest per-capita cost and the highest, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jul 12 2021

Pandemic Brings Drop in Testing, Increase in Illicit Drugs

Clinical drug testing fell by over 50% in spring of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from Quest Diagnostics®. At the same time, the proportion of samples testing positive for dangerous illicit drugs and drug combinations rose.

Dec 31 2020

Drugs with Highest Rates of Positivity in the Workforce

In mandated tests of employees in safety-sensitive jobs, marijuana had the highest rate of drug positivity, followed by opioids and amphetamines, according to the 2020 Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ report. The report includes data from over 2.4 million tests from January to December 2019 of workers in safety-sensitive positions undergoing federally mandated drug tests. These include workers in the airline, transportation, and marine industries, among others.

Dec 28 2020

Impact of COVID-19 on Drug-Related Deaths

The COVID-19 pandemic has likely contributed to an increase in opioid-related deaths in the United States, according to Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health. She spoke with NIH Director Francis Collins in a recent web conversation.

Oct 07 2020

AMA urges states to act to maintain access to care for patients with pain or OUD

AMA urges states to act to maintain access to care for patients with pain or OUD. The American Medical Association is urging governors and state legislatures to take action to ensure that patients being treated with opioids, whether for chronic pain or as medication-assisted treatment for substance use disorder, maintain access to their therapies during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sep 20 2020

Treating and Protecting OUD Patients During Pandemic

Recommendations for further actions to treat and protect patients with opioid use disorder during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to an Ideas and Opinions article published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (2 April 2020), the government needs to do more to help patients with opioid use disorder (OUD) to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jul 08 2020

Treating Mental Health and SUD Patients During Pandemic

Treating mental health and substance use disorder patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Patients who are suffering from a substance use disorder and/or mental health condition are likely to be greatly impacted by the societal changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing may be our best hope to slow the spread of this novel disease.

Mar 28 2020

Opioid Trends and Treatment During Pregnancy

Women with untreated substance use disorder during pregnancy have multiple and interacting risks that impact both maternal and fetal health. Understanding the complex issues in this group of patients is important for delivering the best care.

Mar 05 2020

Naloxone Still Dramatically Underprescribed

Despite More Prescriptions, Naloxone is Still Dramatically Underprescribed. When given promptly, naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose and save a life. But despite an increase in prescriptions since 2012, and despite being recommended as a risk mitigation strategy in the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, naloxone is still highly underprescribed, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dec 19 2019

Medication-Based Treatment for OUD Effective Yet Underutilized

Medication-based treatment with methadone, buprenorphine, or extended-release naltrexone is effective for opioid use disorder (OUD), saving lives and improving long-term outcomes even in the absence of other forms of treatment, according to a major new review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The study was led by Alan Leshner, Emeritus CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the publisher of the journal Science.

Dec 04 2019

New HHS Opioids Guide

New HHS guide on reducing or discontinuing Opioids: individualize, and go slow. The Department of Health and Human Services has released a decision-making guide for physicians who are considering reducing or discontinuing opioid treatment for their patients.

Nov 20 2019

Medication-Assisted Treatment for OUD

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) has emerged as a key strategy for combatting the opioid epidemic. Controlled research has shown it to be more effective than abstinence programs in treating patients with the disorder (Connery, 2015).

Oct 29 2019

Importance of Baseline Drug Testing When Considering Opioid Therapy

New Case Study now available: When considering Opioid therapy—the importance of baseline drug testing for amphetamines and methamphetamines. When following CDC guidelines and ordering baseline drug testing prior to initiating opioid therapy, it can be challenging to identify potential amphetamine and methamphetamine misuse. This case study illustrates some steps that could be appropriate to take to better understand your patient’s potential use or misuse of these two drugs.

Oct 11 2019

How Attitude and Language Affect Patients

Attitudes, and the Language that Reflects Them, Take Their Toll on Patients

In-depth interviews with patients with substance use disorder reveal the toll taken by stigma on patients’ experience in the healthcare system, according to a new study. The study included 48 individuals across Ontario, Canada, who were taking opioids for chronic pain (n=28) or other reasons (n=31)."

Aug 06 2019

Screening and Therapy Most Beneficial for OUD in Pregnant Women

For Pregnant Women, Early Screening and Medication-Assisted Therapy Provide the Best Outcomes for Opioid Use Disorder, for Both Mothers and Infants. Pregnant women should be screened for opioid use disorder (OUD) and receive medication- assisted therapy (MAT) instead of withdrawal, according to recommendations from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). The Committee Opinion was published in August, 2017 in collaboration with the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Jul 30 2019

What are the Signs of Opioid Use Disorder?

Do you know the signs of opioid use disorder? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a Continuing Medical Education Module on this topic, as part of its effort to reduce the harms from use of opioids and other drugs. 

Jul 15 2019

Payers Have Important Role in Reducing Opioid Harm

Payers Have an Important Role to Play in Reducing Opioid Harm. Health insurance companies can play a central role in limiting the harm of opioids, according to a 2017 white paper by the Healthcare Fraud Prevention Partnership (HFPP). In “Healthcare Payer Strategies to Reduce the Harms of Opioids,” the HFPP encourages appropriate care and prescribing practices for patients; identifying and eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse within the healthcare system; and supporting dissemination of information about effective opioid misuse strategies.

Jun 26 2019

The Importance of Definitive Drug Testing

Pill shaving refers to the practice of scraping or crushing part of a pill to dissolve it in a urine sample. What can you do to rule out pill shaving?

Jun 11 2019

How Words can Create or Avoid Stigma for Person with SUD

How the Words We Use Can Create, or Avoid, Stigma for the Person with Substance Use Disorder. “Language matters,” says Shawn Ryan, MD, chief medical officer at BrightView Health in Cincinnati, Ohio. “We know that patients can suffer under the stigma of inappropriate language” when referring to their use of opioids and other drugs.

May 28 2019

AMA President Highlights Reduction in Stigma to Help End Opioid Crisis

Reducing stigma is a key part of fighting the opioid crisis, according to Patrice Harris, MD, President of the American Medical Association and Chair of the AMA’s Opioid Task Force. “We must all confront the intangible and often devastating effects of stigma,” she said.

May 19 2019

Benzodiazepines: Primary Care's New Drug Problem

Heightened awareness of the dangers of prescription opioids has prompted a movement to limit use of opioid therapies for patients with acute or chronic pain. Primary care practitioners stand on the front lines of this care shift, and many are curtailing prescribing opioids in response.

Apr 30 2019

Don't Withhold MAT from Benzodiazepine Users, FDA Says

The US Food and Drug Administration has updated its recommendationson co-prescribing benzodiazepines with medication-assisted therapy treatment, stating that buprenorphine and methadone “should not be withheld from patients taking benzodiazepines or other drugs that depress the central nervous system.”

Apr 03 2019

Are Physicians Complying with CDC Opioid Prescribing Recommendations?

How Well are Physicians Complying with CDC Opioid Prescribing Recommendations? A report by the insurance industry group AHIP (America’s Health Insurance Plans) suggests that physicians still have a way to go to be in compliance with the 2016 opioid prescribing and monitoring recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Mar 18 2019

Opioid Use and Lower Work Rates Go Hand-in-Hand

Labor force participation among men of prime working age is lowest in areas where prescription opioid use is highest, according to a 2017 analysis by Alan Krueger, PhD, of Princeton University and the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Feb 22 2019

2018 Opioid Bill: Increased Access to Treatment

Access to medication-assisted treatment will increase under the new opioid bill. In October 2018, the president signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act,which addresses multiple aspects of the opioid crisis. Several provisions in the bill are slated to increase access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT), in which buprenorphine or another medication is part of the treatment plan for substance use disorder.

Jan 31 2019

Have Drug Overdose Death Totals Plateaued?

Led by Synthetic Opioids, Drug Overdose Deaths Climbed Through 2017. Have They Reached a Plateau? Data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that deaths due to drug overdoses climbed from 2015 through the end of 2017, but preliminary data suggest the annual death rate may have reached a plateau.

Jan 17 2019

Prescriber's Role in Preventing Prescription Drug Diversion

As a Prescriber, What is Your Role in Preventing Prescription Drug Diversion?Diversion of prescription medications is a major part of the epidemic of substance abuse in the United States. Clinicians who prescribe opioids and other controlled substances have an important role to play in preventing drug diversion, through maintaining good records and secure prescription pads, communicating with patients and other prescribers, and monitoring compliance with urine drug testing.

Jan 08 2019

House and Senate Prepare to Pass Bipartisan Bill to Fight Opioid Crisis

In late September 2018, the US House and Senate agreed on a compromise bill to address multiple aspects of the opioid crisis.

Dec 20 2018

Know Your Opioids

How does oxycodone differ from hydrocodone? How powerful is fentanyl compared to morphine? A working knowledge of opioids is important for clinicians who treat patients with chronic pain.

Dec 17 2018

State-Level Information on Drug Use and Misuse in America

Where are the hotspots for drug misuse in America? And what are the trends in your state? Quest Diagnostics has produced an interactive map that provides state-by-state information that can guide your thinking on problems in your area.

Nov 29 2018

Keeping Patients Safe When Prescribing Opioids

For patients with chronic pain, opioid medications can offer an important treatment option. If you are a clinician who is new to prescribing opioids, there are several important resources and best practices that can help keep your patients safe and properly treated while receiving opioids.

Oct 26 2018

Opioid Epidemic Cost $504 Billion in 1 Year

The Council of Economic Advisors says that the cost of the nation’s opioid epidemic in 2015 was $504 billion, or 2.8% of that year’s Gross Domestic Product. “This estimate dwarfs estimates from previous studies,” the Council states in its February 2018 CEA Annual Report.

Oct 16 2018

Buprenorphine Provider Gap in Midwest and Mid-Atlantic

The number of approved providers of buprenorphine per opioid overdose death is lower than average in 11 states in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, according to an analysis by the health policy consulting group Avalere.

Sep 20 2018

2018 Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ Report Now Available

Drug Misuse in America 2018, a Quest Diagnostics Health Trends™ report, presents findings from analysis of more than 3.9 million de-identified aggregated clinical drug monitoring tests performed by Quest Diagnostics for patients in all 50 states and D.C. between 2011 and 2017.

Sep 07 2018

Attending PAINWeek® in Las Vegas?

Visit us at Booth 311 and get a sneak peek at our Health Trends™: Drug Misuse in America 2018 report.

Aug 24 2018

Come see us at the Opioid Management Congress - August 13-14, 2018

Quest Diagnostics is pleased to sponsor the August 13-14, 2018 Opioid Management Congress in Nashville, TN. Use promo code: QUEST for an early registration discount, and join us for our lunch presentation on August 13, 2018.

Jun 28 2018

Can Mandatory Consultation of State PDMP Reduce Overdose Morbidity?

Every state now has a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) in place to record prescriptions of controlled substances, but they vary widely in the information they collect and whether and how physicians must consult the database.

Nov 15 2017

Opioids and Benzodiazepines Present Dangerous Combination

More than a quarter of patients being tested for either prescribed opioids or prescribed benzodiazepines tested positive for both drugs, according to a new study in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.

Nov 13 2017

Number of Opioids Prescribed Has Fallen Since 2010

The quantity of opioids prescribed in the United States peaked in 2010 and has been falling since, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the quantity prescribed in 2015, the last year for which comprehensive data are available, is still more than three times as high as it was in 1999.

Nov 10 2017

States Vary Widely in PDMP Collection Processes

It is clear that the prescription opioid epidemic is a nationwide problem, but for now, one of the most important weapons against it is being wielded inconsistently from state to state. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are state-run electronic databases of prescribing and dispensing information from healthcare providers and pharmacies.

Sep 05 2017

Updated Guidelines on Opioid Prescriptions and Testing

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) recommends that urine drug testing be used as part of a comprehensive management strategy for patients receiving prescription opioids for chronic pain.

Aug 14 2017

The Role of Urine Drug Testing in Pain Management

Opioids and other medications (non-opioid analgesics, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants) are prescribed to treat chronic pain of non-cancer origin. Ongoing monitoring of these patients is important to ensure safe and effective therapy.

Jul 14 2017

What a PDM Program Can Offer Your Practice

For patients with chronic pain, opioids may offer important relief from suffering and help support activities of daily living. At the same time, if they are not used according to your prescription, opioids can do great harm.

Jul 12 2017

Maine’s Diversion Alert Program Aids Physician Decision-Making

Physicians must take into account many factors when making decisions about opioid prescriptions, including the risk that the individual patient may divert prescription medications for illegal use. To aid physician decision-making, the state of Maine in 2013 instituted its Diversion Alert program, a program that gives physicians access to state records of arrests or summons for prescription or illegal drug-related crimes. Physicians can view data from the previous 11 months, and can receive monthly updates.

Jul 05 2017

CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids and Monitoring Use

In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control published an updated guideline for primary care clinicians who are prescribing opioids for chronic pain (outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care). It’s an extensive study, with a thorough review of the evidence. But the main message is contained in 12 key points, summarized here.

Jul 05 2017