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    CDC: Antihistamines found in street drugs, hampers effectiveness of naloxone

    The following is a news story broadcasted by NBC4 Columbus.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — For those with or who have loved ones with substance abuse problems, encountering a drug cut with an unknown substance is a constant fear.

    Suppliers often add ingredients to alter how one reacts to the drug, and according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), researchers are finding an ingredient many wouldn’t expect.

    That added ingredient? Antihistamines, which are typically found in allergy medications, and according to some experts, their presence in certain drugs like opioids can have potentially lethal consequences.

    “People who suffer from substance use disorders such as opioid use disorder, it’s all about survival,” said Mike Gersz, the director of outpatient services for the addiction recovery center Maryhaven.

    He said that at the height of addiction, the desperation for drugs is real and suppliers are well aware of that vulnerability. He was not surprised to learn the CDC is finding a unique drug in the systems of those who overdose.

    “We’re seeing that,” Gersz said. “We’re also seeing that with fentanyl cut with cocaine, amphetamines, even cannabis, so for people to include antihistamine in the supply is not a surprise at all.”

    According to a recent study conducted by the CDC, between 2019 and 2020, at least 18% of overdoses involved or tested positive for antihistamines. The study explains types of antihistamines can be used to reduce opioid-related side effects, like itchy skin.

    Narcan or naloxone is the drug is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Gersz said the drug does not work in reversing the sedative nature of antihistamines. The CDC found at least 82% of the overdose deaths featuring antihistamines involved opioids.

    “Naloxone is not effective for someone using antihistamines,” he said. “It is just effective for someone who is using opioids.”

    Gersz said while it is possible users also took antihistamines to counteract other potential side effects like trouble sleeping, the latest study shows the dangers associated with street drugs continue to evolve.

    “We know that where the opportunity is, there are people who will try to take advantage of the less fortunate and this is really, really sad,” Gersz said.