CONFERENCE ANNOUNCEMENT: CALL FOR PAPERS Lisbon Addictions 2015. The first European Conference on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies will be held in Lisbon on 23-25 September 2015. Organised by SICAD, the journal Addiction, the EMCDDA and ISAJE, it will provide a unique networking opportunity for researchers, practitioners and policy experts across countries and disciplines to discuss latest findings on the prevention, treatment and control of addiction. A call for abstracts has just been published on www.lisbonaddictions.eu . To stay updated on the latest developments subscribe to the conference newsletter http://eepurl.com/5fZaP
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;
The Los Angeles Times reports that the Federal Spending Bill approved in December by the US Congress includes provisions limiting the Justice Department’s ability to take criminal action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting in full compliance with the medical cannabis laws of their states. An amendment states, “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” One of the sponsors of the amendment, Representative Sam Farr, said “The federal government will finally respect the decisions made by the majority of states that passed medical marijuana laws. This is a great day for common sense because now our federal dollars will be spent more wisely on prosecuting criminals and not sick patients.” The Obama administration had directed federal prosecutors in 2013 to stop enforcing drug laws that contradict state cannabis policies but the measure in the spending bill codifies it as a matter of law. The bill also prevents the Justice Department from undermining state-sanctioned hemp cultivation programmes.
BBC News reports that the UK Court of Appeal has ruled that a child born with foetal alcohol syndrome is not legally entitled to compensation after her mother drank excessively while pregnant. The case was brought by a council in the North West of England and involved a seven-year-old girl who was born with severe brain damage and is now in care. Lawyers argued that her mother had ignored warnings and drank a "grossly excessive" amount of alcohol while pregnant and poisoned her foetus. Three appeal judges at the Court of Appeal had to rule on whether or not the girl was entitled to a payout from the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as a victim of crime. The appeal judges ruled that the mother had not committed a criminal offence. Lord Justice Treacy said an "essential ingredient" for a crime to be committed "is the infliction of grievous bodily harm on a person - grievous bodily harm on a foetus will not suffice."
The New York Times reports that the Attorney General of New York, Eric T. Schneiderman, wrote to the chief executive of Amphastar, a company that makes naloxone, demanding an explanation for the recent sharp rise in the price of the drug. After a successful pilot programme on Staten Island, the New York Police Department said it would supply its 19,500 patrol officers with intranasal naloxone, a move that has been introduce by police departments across the country. A nasal-specific naloxone product has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Amphastar’s formulation is used “off label,” in combination with an atomizer, to administer the drug through the nose. Schneiderman’s office began a $5 million programme to reimburse police departments across the state for purchases of naloxone in April 2014. Mr. Schneiderman wrote that “A dose of naloxone that a participating police department had purchased for $14.90 in August is now selling for $34.50.”
The Guardian reports that a Cochrane review found evidence that e-cigarettes can help some smokers quit. The evidence came from two randomised controlled trials involving around 950 participants. The individual trials found no difference in the number of people who quit smoking by at least six months when using e-cigarettes compared with placebo e-cigarettes or nicotine patches. The results on quitting were significant when the trials were added together and the reviewers said the pooled results should be treated with caution. Robert West commented: “It’s early days, but it seems that these devices are already helping tens of thousands of smokers to stop each year.” Dr John Middleton, the vice-president of the UK Faculty of Public Health said, “It’s taken decades of sustained effort to create a society in the UK where smoking is now not seen as the norm. Our concern is that e-cigarettes could reverse this and create a new generation of customers for the tobacco industry, who might otherwise not have started smoking.”
Regulations have been laid in the UK parliament which will lead to making smoking in cars carrying children illegal in England. The restrictions are planned to come into force on 1 October 2015. Government health minister Jane Ellison said, “The existing smoke-free legislation, as set out in the Health Act 2006, will be extended so that it will be an offence to smoke in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present and fail to prevent smoking in a private vehicle with someone under age 18 present. If approved by Parliament, the regulations will apply to enclosed private vehicles and will not apply to anyone driving alone.” A fine of £50 will be issued for the offence.
BBC News reports that Beijing city officials have introduced plans to ban smoking in all indoor public spaces. The plans also include prohibition of cigarette advertising on public transport and in films, magazines and newspapers. The ban is due to be enforced from June 2015. The new rules will initially only cover the capital.
Figures released by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that smoking rates fell from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013, the lowest prevalence of adult smoking since the CDC's Nation Health Interview Survey began keeping such records in 1965. The figures show that smoking is disproportionately high in certain groups and is highest among those below the poverty level. In the UK, figures from the Office for National Statistics report, Opinions and Lifestyle Survey, Adult Smoking Habits in Great Britain, 2013, show that smoking in Great Britain fell from 20% to 19% between 2012 and 2013. Women accounted for the fall in the previous year as the proportion of women who smoke cigarettes decreased from 19% to 17% between 2012 and 2013, while there was relatively little change in this proportion for men. Deborah Arnott, chief executive of ASH, said: "This statistically significant decline in adult smokers shows that the Government's tobacco control plan is on track. However, children are still taking up smoking, so tough new measures to regulate tobacco, like plain standardised packaging, are needed if we are to drive down smoking still further. The Government must act quickly to allow Parliament to vote on the regulations which will finally get rid of glitzy, glamorous cigarette packs forever." The ONS report also found that e-cigarettes are used almost exclusively by smokers and ex-smokers. Almost none of those who had never smoked cigarettes were e-cigarette users.
On 11 November 2014, Addiction Editorial Advisor Keith Humphreys was granted the Freedom of the City of London in recognition of his contributions to alcohol policy in London and the UK more generally. The award ceremony, which was attended by distinguished addiction scientists as well as members of Parliament and the London Common Council, was followed by a public lecture at Fishmonger's Hall by Dr. Humphreys on the dilemmas of drug policy formation.
BBC News reports that the Indian Health Minister, Harsh Vardhan, has announced new rules which will require health warnings to cover 85% of the surface of tobacco packaging. The new rules take effect from 1 April 2015 and the health ministry said printed warnings will need to be carried on the front and back of cigarette packs, with highly visible pictorial warnings as well as the information that 'tobacco causes mouth cancer'. Reuters reports that India has also proposed a ban on the sale of single conventional cigarettes. The WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control states that countries "shall endeavor" to prohibit such sales as it makes them more affordable for minors; India is a party to the convention.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published new guidelines Community Management of Opioid Overdose. The guidelines aim to reduce the number of deaths from opioid overdose by providing evidence-based recommendations on the availability of naloxone for people likely to witness an opioid overdose, including non-medical first responders, with advice on resuscitation and post-resuscitation care for opioid overdose in the community. The guidelines also cover the risk of overdose among people working towards recovery in drug-free programmes, people released from prison, and those taking opiate substitutes (such as methadone or buprenorphine) as well as among people out of contact with treatment services.
Reuters reports that Oregon and Alaska, as well as the US capital Washington, voted on 4 November to legalise cannabis on. The Oregon and Alaska measures would legalise recreational cannabis use with a network of cannabis shops similar to those operating in Washington state and Colorado. A proposal in the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.) to allow cannabis possession but not retail sales won nearly 65 percent of the vote. The Washington proposal was presented as a civil rights issue, saying that research has shown that African Americans are disproportionately more likely to be arrested on cannabis charges than are people of other races. The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to two ounces (57 grams) of cannabis and grow up to six plants.
The Guardian reports that the UK’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) has rejected moves to impose a blanket time limit on the prescribing of methadone substitution treatment. In its report, Time Limiting Opioid Substitution Therapy, the ACMD said the time limits that have been proposed by senior members of the UK government would lead to high rates of relapse and increase HIV infection and death rates. The ACMD found that there was strong evidence that addicts were in substitution treatment for too short a time to benefit. The report also said that telling doctors to put a blanket time limit on prescribing methadone would mean they have to ignore the official guidance from the General Medical Council. “It is our expert opinion that many prescribers would be reluctant to implement such a policy against their professional judgment, based on individual clinical assessment,” the ACMD said.
The Independent reports that Health Canada has authorised 120 people in Vancouver to receive heroin prescriptions, 26 of whom were participants in a previous trial that studied heroin prescribing to individuals who had not responded to standard treatments. The doctors involved in the trial wanted to continue prescribing heroin to the patients in their care but the federal health minister introduced regulations banning heroin prescriptions outside of clinical trials in October 2013. Straight reports that a freedom of information request found that the banning decision was taken after consulting only one scientific report on the issue. However, the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted an injunction against the ban after petitioning from Providence Health Care and five long-time opiate users. With heroin prescriptions starting in November 2014, doctors in Canada are the first clinicians in North America to prescribe heroin to addicts.
The four winners of the 2014 EMCDDA scientific paper award were honoured in Lisbon on 25 November. The prize, inaugurated in 2011 by the EMCDDA and its Scientific Committee, celebrates scientific writing and distinguishes high-quality research in the field of illicit drugs. A record 64 papers were nominated by members of the Scientific Committee, the Reitox national focal points, European drug research peer-reviewed journals and by EMCDDA staff. Among the four winners was ‘Substance use disorders in adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: A 4-year follow-up study’ (2013), whose primary author is Annabeth Groenman and which was published in Addiction, 108, 8, p. 1503–11.
The Guardian reports that the newly appointed Chief Executive of the UK Civil Service, Mr John Manzoni, has close financial links with one of Britain's major drink companies. When initially asked about Manzoni's £100,000-a-year job at SABMiller, the UK Cabinet Office released a statement saying that the government was satisfied it was not a conflict of interest and that he would establish a blind trust for his shares. However, an open letter was sent to the Cabinet Secreatry by leading medical professionals and charities protesting that the appointment was incompatible with UK public health goals. One of the organisers of the letter, Katherine Brown, direction of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said she found the situation an example of the revolving door between business and the government. "In this instance they haven't even bothered with a smokescreen," she said. "Having the chief executive of the UK civil service receive private funds fron an industry whose impact and activites are so highly contested is seriously problematic. This presents a major risk of conflict of interest and exposes public policy to interference by big business financial goals." Subsequent to the outcry, it was announced that Mr Manzoni would waive his £100,000 part-time salary but some regard this as little more than a sop and the question remains as to whether someone so close to an industry whose practices are inimical to public health policies is appropriate for a senior role in government.
The sixth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP6) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was held in Moscow in October. Among the decisions approved by the Parties was the Article 6 guidelines devoted to tax measures to reduce the demand for tobacco; measures aimed at restricting tobacco industry interference, including a request to the Convention Secretariat to continue providing technical support to the Parties and to engage with international organizations on the matters of tobacco companies’ influence; a decision on electronic nicotine (and non-nicotine) delivery systems (ENDS) which acknowledges the need for regulations along the lines of policies concerning other tobacco products, including banning or restricting promotion, advertising and sponsorship of ENDS. The session also adopted the Moscow Declaration. Noting that the heaviest burden of tobacco related diseases is borne by the most vulnerable population groups, the Declaration calls on the parties to strengthen international collaboration on tobacco control and attain a voluntary global target of 30% prevalence reduction by 2025.
The Huffington Post reports that Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield called for "flexible" interpretations of international drug control treaties at the United Nations in New York City on October 9. Brownfield said one pillar of the new U.S. approach on drug policy is to "accept flexible interpretation" of U.N. drug treaties, adding "How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?" Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, commented: "To now have the United States government emerging as a defender and even champion of flexibility in interpreting the conventions, that represents a major step forward." John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America observed that while Brownfield's statements represent an improvement on past American policy, they are no more than an attempt at damage control. "The U.S. wants to tamp down the impact that its changes on cannabis are having so that it doesn't become a broader discussion about modernizing the international treaties," said Walsh.
The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) published new advertising rules for e-cigarettes in the UK, which came into effect on November 14. The new rules add to those already in place, with an emphasis on the protection of young people and ads that must avoid containing anything that promotes the use of a tobacco product or that shows the use of a tobacco product in a positive light. Unless manufacturers obtain an authorisation for their product from the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, ads for e-cigarettes cannot convey health benefits or claim that they are ‘safer’ or ‘healthier’ than smoking tobacco. The rules were subject to public consultation and will apply across media. During the consultation CAP says it took into account the range of views that exist about e-cigarettes and their potential to re-normalise smoking, as well as the case being made for their public health benefits.
Ecuador has begun releasing thousands of convicted cocaine smugglers as a result of the country’s new criminal law, which took effect on August 10th. The new law retroactively applies heavily reduced jail sentences to those already convicted of attempting to transport relatively small amounts of drugs out of the country. According to GlobalPost around 500 “drug mules” have already been released and at least another 2,000 are expected to follow. The sentence reduction is not automatic and can only happen after a court hearing, which the prisoner has to request. “There is a policy of seeing mules as victims of the drug trade,” Jorge Paladines, national coordinator of the Public Defender’s Office, told GlobalPost. Paladines continued, “I don’t like using the term ‘sentence reduction,’ because was their sentence fair to start with? This is really about sentence proportionality.”
French Health Minister Marisol Touraine has announced plans to introduce standardised cigarette packaging in early 2016. The announcement came after the French Ministry of Health presented its anti-smoking plan. The Riviera Times reports that branding will be subject to strict controls and that Touraine said “The brand name will be present on the packaging, but it will be limited to one position of specified size and always in the same location on the packet.” Other anti-smoking measures being considered include the prohibition of electronic cigarettes in certain public places, smoking in cars whilst children under 12 are present and smoking in public spaces designed for children.
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;
5 - 8 February 2015, Los Angeles, California, USA.
5 - 6 February 2015, Breda, The Netherlands.
3 - 7 March 2015, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.
4 - 6 March 2015, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia.
9 - 10 March 2015, Miami, Florida, USA.
16 - 18 March 2015, Budapest, Hungary.
17 - 20 March 2015, Brisbane, Australia.
19 - 22 March 2015, National Harbor, Maryland, USA.
28 March - 1 April 2015, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
10 - 11 April 2015, Asheville, North Carolina, USA.
17 - 20 April 2015, Barcelona, Spain.
22 - 25 April 2015, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
23 - 26 April 2015, Austin, Texas, USA.
28 April - 1 May 2015, San Diego, California, USA.
8 - 9 May 2015, Hong Kong SAR, China.
16 - 20 May 2015, Toronto, Canada.
16 - 18 May 2015, Carlsbad, California, USA.
17 - 20 May 2015, Arlington, Virginia, USA.
20 - 22 May 2015, Melbourne, Australia.
29 - 30 May 2015, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
1 - 5 June 2015, Munich, Germany.
1 - 3 June 2015, Belgrade, Serbia.
7 - 9 June 2015, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.
11 - 12 June 2015, Manchester, UK.
13 - 18 June 2015, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
15 - 19 June 2015, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
17 - 19 June 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
18 - 19 June 2015, Scotland, UK.
20 - 24 June 2015, San Antonio, Texas, USA.
6 - 9 August 2015, Toronto, Canada.
8 - 11 August 2015, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.
18 - 21 August 2015, Sydney, Australia.
22 - 25 August 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
29 August - 1 September 2015, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
23 - 25 September 2015, Lisbon, Portugal.
5 - 8 October 2015, Dundee, Scotland, UK.
7 - 9 October 2015, Melbourne, Australia.
7 - 9 October 2015, Edinburgh, Scotland.
9 - 13 October 2015, Washington, DC, USA.
31 October - 4 November 2015, Chicago, Illinois, USA.
12 - 14 November 2015, Alberta, Canada.
3 - 6 December 2015, Huntington Beach, California, USA.