The EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction) are recruiting two Scientific Analysts and a Scientific Writer - the vacancies are open to citizens of the EU and Norway, working in English with a working knowledge of a second EU language. Full details can be found at https://e-recruitment.emcdda.europa.eu/e-recruitment/jobvacancies
We welcome suggestions and contributions from our readers. Send your material to John Witton, News and Notes Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966;
Ukraine has suspended legal proceedings against Australia that claimed its plain-packaging tobacco laws were trade-restrictive. Ukraine was the first of five countries to challenge Australia's laws at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 2012, even though it does not export tobacco to Australia. Ukraine has told a WTO panel of adjudicators that it hopes to find a mutually agreed solution with Australia. The other countries challenging Australia’s laws, Indonesia, Cuba, Honduras and Dominican Republic, have not indicated they plan to drop their lawsuits. The WTO adjudication panel has previously said it expected to rule on the tobacco lawsuits against Australia in the first half of 2016.
The latest Colombia Coca Survey, produced by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Colombian Government, showed that the net coca cultivation area in Colombia had increased from 48,000 hectares in 2013 to 69,000 in 2014. InSight Crime reports that another report from UNODC showed that coca cultivation in Peru declined to 42,900 hectares in 2014, meaning Colombia was again the world's largest supplier of coca. Coca cultivation in Peru has been falling since 2011, when it reached a peak of 62,500 hectares. The reduction in coca crops coincided with increased eradication efforts by Peruvian authorities, with US support. InSight Crime also notes a large discrepancy between how much coca the US government estimates is grown in Colombia, compared with UNODC’s estimates, with the White House estimating that coca cultivation had increased to 112,000 hectares in 2014. UNODC uses satellite imagery as the main basis for its estimate. The US has not disclosed the sources for its estimates, although surveys with ex-cocaine farmers have been used in previous reports. InSight Crime suggests this discrepancy underlines how difficult it is to quantify clandestine activities like coca growing and that assessing the success of drug policy using such data “is fundamentally problematic.”
The July Effectiveness Bank Bulletin from Drug and Alcohol Findings provides analysis of research evidence on a range of different ways of reducing alcohol-related harm. The topics covered are teaching schoolchildren to drink more safely, improving identification of excessive drinkers on medical wards through learning by example, how extending treatment for dependence would save lives in the European Union, and the impact of alcohol taxes on mortality rates in Finland.
NewsScholars.org reports that a package of six tobacco-related bills stalled in the California Legislature in July due to a lack of sufficient support. One bill proposed raising the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. Another of the bills was Senate Bill 140 (SB140) introduced by Democratic Senator Mark Leno which sought to limit the marketing and use of electronic cigarettes by defining them as tobacco products. Leno said, "The chairman and his committee are doing the full bidding of the tobacco industry -- and that's frightening. Big Tobacco has been searching for a 'safe' delivery system for their toxic and addictive nicotine. E-cigarettes are their new holy grail." Commentators have suggested the legislative problems are partly the result of the tobacco industry's financial contributions during election campaigns. Tobacco companies have contributed more than $173,000 to members of the State Assembly's 21-member Committee on Governmental Organization, which stalled SB140. The companies also reportedly spent more than $215,000 on lobbyists opposing the bill in the first three months of 2015.
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the number of U.S. heroin users has grown by nearly 300,000 over a decade. Increases were particularly noted among demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use, including women, the privately insured, and people with higher incomes. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said, "An increasing number of people are primed for heroin use because they were addicted to an opioid painkiller." The heroin death rate quadrupled over a decade, reaching nearly 8,300 in 2013. Most of the overdoses involved other drugs, most often cocaine.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that a search through court records of lawsuits against tobacco companies in Florida showed that medical experts have been providing testimony to dispute plaintiffs’ claims. Robert K. Jackler, a professor of otolaryngology at Stanford University, identified six otolaryngologists, specialists in diseases of the head and neck, who have proposed reasons other than smoking for the cancers suffered by plaintiffs or their deceased relatives. Jackler’s study, published in Laryngoscope, found these reasons included alcohol, asbestos, cleaning solvents, gasoline fumes, genetic predisposition, the human papilloma virus, mouthwash, and salted meats. Three of the six experts identified had current or former university affiliations.
Cannabis decriminalisation bill in Chile
BBC News reports that Chile’s lower House of Congress has approved a bill that would allow Chileans to grow up to six plants in their home for medical, recreational or spiritual use. The bill was approved by 68 votes to 39 and goes to a health commission, then the Senate, for approval.
The Fix reports that the Heroin Crisis Act unanimously passed the Illinois State House in May. The act was also passed by the state Senate. The act is a response to recent increased opioid-related mortality rates in Chicago and throughout the midwest region of the US. Under the provisions of the bill, the medical director of the Department of Public Health will be required to write a standing order enabling all pharmacies to dispense an opioid overdose antidote like naloxone to both drug users and their loved ones without discrimination. The new act also requires that firemen, police officers and school nurses carry naloxone and receive the training to administer it properly. Medical examiners and coroners would be required to report to the Department of Public Health all cases where a drug overdose is determined to be the cause of or a major factor in death. The bill also amends drug court programs to keep users in treatment and out of jails. “This bill very much reflects what activists have the power to achieve,” said Chelsea Laliberte, an activist whose brother died from a heroin overdose. Newly elected Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed $300 million in budget cuts, including cuts to services to mental health and addiction services, so it will be some time before the funding of the act is determined.
The 2015 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports that drug use prevalence continues to be stable around the world. Opiate use has remained stable at the global level and cocaine use has declined while the use of cannabis and the non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids have continued to rise. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov commented that only one out of six problem drug users has access to treatment. “Women in particular appear to face barriers to treatment – while one out of three drug users globally is a woman, only one out of five drug users in treatment is a woman.” The report also notes the growing importance of Africa as a transit area for Afghan heroin being trafficked to Europe.
Open Society Foundations reports that the Center for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship (CESeC) in Rio de Janeiro launched an anti-drug prohibition ad campaign, Da Proibição Nasce o Tráfico (“Trafficking Is Born of Prohibition”), in April. Five comic book-style public service announcements were placed on 40 city buses for 30 days. Two days after the campaign was also launched in São Paulo, the state government ordered the ads pulled from the city’s buses. “All we know is that the owner of the marketing company that sold us the ad space on the buses received a phone call ordering him to remove the cartoons on the grounds that they constitute ‘an apologia for drugs,’” said Julita Lemgruber, CESeC’s director. “Apparently, not just drugs, but even talking about drugs is illegal in São Paulo.” Pedro Abramovay, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the Open Society Foundations, based in Brazil, said “The campaign got attention in Rio, but nothing compared to what we’re seeing now in São Paulo in terms of media coverage and public debate. Everyone in the city is talking about these cartoons.” The government ban coincided with the launch of the Brazilian Platform for Drug Policy in São Paulo, which has the aim of raising public awareness of the harmful impacts of current drug policies and proposing alternate approaches.
Andrea Mitchell writes: The Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists, known as SALIS, has announced a digital archive of Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) books and documents which they are building in partnership with the Internet Archive. Books are donated by SALIS members, and most recently by the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The SALIS Collection: Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs was recently unveiled at the SALIS 37th Annual conference in San Diego. Materials from the collection are available for borrowing or viewing by anyone with an Internet connection. Seed money for this project was provided by the Joel and Maria Fort Foundation and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. An editorial entitled "Collective amnesia: Reversing the global epidemic of addiction library closures," published in this journal in 2012, described the loss of ATOD libraries and information centres and made recommendations for digital repositories. Since then the SALIS Advocacy committee has been working to develop this digital archive and is calling for more book donations and funding. Contact the SALIS Home office, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have funds, books or documents you wish to donate.
Marcus Munafo writes: Third-party services are proliferating in the academic publishing arena, and these go well beyond the raft of new Open Access journals that now exist. They include services to support networking and manuscript sharing (e.g., ResearchGate), data sharing (e.g., figshare), unique author identifiers (e.g., ORCID), recognition of peer review (e.g., Publons), and post-publication peer review (e.g., PubPeer, PubMed Commons). These are a mix of for-profit (e.g., ReseachGate) and non-profit (e.g., ORCID) services, and which one is which may not always be clear. What is clear is that the academic publishing ecosystem is evolving rapidly, and these services are part of that evolution. Some will be useful and survive, others will not. For example, some grant-awarding bodies now require applicants to have an ORCID identifier. For now: caveat emptor – some of these services.
Problems relating to heroin still account for a large share of the drug-related health and social costs in Europe according to the latest European Drug Report, but the report notes an ‘overall stagnation in demand for this drug.’ 23,000 people entered specialist drug treatment for the first time for heroin problems in 2013 compared to 59,000 in 2007. The report also says that technical innovation and market competition have led to an increase in the potency of cannabis, the purity of cocaine and the MDMA-content in ecstasy tablets. Speaking at a launch of the report EMCDDA head Wolfgang Gotz said: "In Europe I do not know any government, or parliamentary majority backing a government, that is currently seriously discussing cannabis legalization or regulation in a different way. I don't see a discussion coming up of the level as it is in the Americas." The report also observes that online “grey marketplaces” selling new psychoactive substances (NPS) and greater use of social media are emerging as alternativesto the high street “head shops” and public websites likely to be shut down by laws enforcing a blanket ban on the trade. The NPS market in Europe is growing rapidly, with two new substances being identified every week, but is also becoming increasingly difficult to control, with different parts of the trade based in different countries beyond the reach of any one state.
The Telegraph reports Euromonitor data showing that global sales of vapour devices grew by 59% from £2.28bn to £3.9bn in 2014, with sales in the largest market, the USA, more than doubling to £1.7bn. In the UK, sales increased by 75% to £459m, making the UK the second largest market for vapour devices in the world. Spending on nicotine replacement therapies fell by 3% to £137m in the UK, its first decline since 2008. Shane MacGuill, senior tobacco analyst at Euromonitor, said “The days of the traditional cigarette are numbered – the only question is how long that process will take – and e-cigarettes have the potential to drastically shorten the shelf life of traditional tobacco products.”
BBC News reports that medical cannabis users can legally use all forms of cannabis after a Canadian Supreme Court decision. Cannabis oil is now permitted instead of only "dried" cannabis so that people can bake it into food products. The court ruled that prohibiting possession of non-dried forms of cannabis is "contrary to the principles of fundamental justice because they are arbitrary; the effects of the prohibition contradict the objective of protecting health and safety."
The Jellinek Memorial Award for 2015 has been awarded to Dr Guilherme L. G. Borges of the Instituto Nacional de Psiquiatría Ramón de la Fuente Muñiz, Mexico City. Dr Borges received the award for his major contribution to epidemiological research on alcohol and related conditions, especially in relation to immigrant, cross-cultural and international issues. Dr Borges received $5000 (Canadian) and a bust of E.M. Jellinek.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the California Senate voted to raise the legal smoking age to 21 from 18. The California Senate voted 26-8 in favour of the measure, the office of bill author Senator Ed Hernandez, a Democrat, said in a statement. If the bill is approved by the state assembly then California will become one of the first states to approve a higher smoking age. Hawaii approved a measure in April to raise the smoking age to 21, and that is awaiting the state governor's signature.
In May the Bundesrat, a legislative body that represents the sixteen federal states of Germany at the national level, approved a measure in which “[t]he Bundesrat asks the Federal Government to initiate a legislative procedure to change the narcotics law and the regulations on the prescription of narcotics with the aim to make cannabis extract and cannabis flowers available for standard medical care of pain and palliative patients.”
The UK government plans to introduce legislation to ban novel psychoactive substances (NPS). The government plans to “create a blanket ban which would prohibit and disrupt the production, distribution, sale and supply of new psychoactive substances in the UK.” The proposed legislation would cover “any substance intended for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect.” The maximum sentence for offences would be seven years’ imprisonment. Substances such as alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, food and medical products would be excluded from the scope of the offence, as would controlled drugs, which would continue to be regulated by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. The Bill will have provision to extend the list of exemptions further. Following the recommendations of an NPS Expert Panel that reported in 2014, the government’s Psychoactive Substances Bill would focus on the supply of NPS and would not include a personal possession offence. Sales of nitrous oxide are also included in the ban.
The New York Times reports that poison control centres around the US reported 359 cases in January of illnesses from synthetic cannabinoids, a figure that rose to just over 1,500 in April, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Mark Ryan, the director of the Louisiana Poison Center, said, “There’s a large amount of use going on. When one of these new ingredients — something that’s more potent and gives a bigger high — is released and gets into distribution, it can cause these more extreme effects.”
Subject to editorial review, we will be glad to include brief details of your conference or event. Please send your notification to Jean O’Reilly, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966;
14 - 17 September 2015, Helsinki, Finland.
16 - 18 September 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
21 September 2015, Cardiff, Wales, UK.
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27 September - 29 May 2015, San Francisco, California, USA.
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31 October - 4 November 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
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