Published since 1884 by the Society for the Study of Addiction.
Editor-in-Chief, Robert West

We welcome suggestions and contributions from our readers. Send your material to Robert Calder, Addiction News Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF, United Kingdom. E-mail jean@addictionjournal.org

Canada report details over 10,000 fatal opioid overdoses in 21 months

Posted 08-May-19

A report released by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) states that over 10,300 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses between January 2016 and September 2018. Of the 3,286 people who died in 2018, 75% were male and 93% deaths were the result of accidental overdose. Nearly three-quarters of accidental overdoses reportedly involved fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances.

Source: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/news/2019/04/updated-numbers-on-opioid-related-overdose-deaths-in-canada.html

Guatemalan presidential candidate arrested in the US on drug changes

Posted 08-May-19

A candidate running for president of Guatemala has been arrested in Miami on suspicion of conspiring to import cocaine to the US. Mario Estrada is alleged to have offered Sinaloa, a Mexican drug cartel, help importing cocaine into the US in exchange for money to support his presidential campaign. He was arrested along with a second Guatemalan national, Juan Pablo González. Neither has yet commented on the arrests or charges made against them.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-47975014

Mexican opium poppy prices fall as fentanyl demand rises in the US

Posted 08-May-19

The price of opium gum from Mexico fell by up to 80% last year. Some suggest that the price has been affected by the rising popularity of fentanyl-based opioids in the US causing a reduction in demand for heroin deriving from opium. The price of opium gum has declined from 20,000 pesos per kilo in 2017 to under 8,000 pesos in 2018 with some farmers reporting prices of 4,000 pesos per kilo. An independent study by the Network of Researchers in International Affairs (NORIA) highlighted negative economic effects experienced by poor and rural areas of Mexico as a consequence of low opium gum prices.

Source: https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/opium-prices-plummeted/

US report on poppy cultivation in Afghanistan indicates a 33% decline

Posted 08-May-19

The annual US report estimating poppy cultivation and opium production in Afghanistan indicates that cultivation and production declined substantially in 2018 compared with 2017. The report highlights that, despite this reduction, cultivation remains higher than it has been for most years since 2011. The decline from 329,000 hectares in 2017 to 221,000 hectares of poppy cultivation in 2018 can, in part, be attributed to drought conditions in many areas of Afghanistan along with low prices resulting from the record crop in 2017.

Source: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/poppy-cultivation-potential-opium-production-afghanistan/

New York Attorney General sues opioid manufacturers

Posted 08-May-19

The New York Attorney General has instigated a lawsuit against six opioid pharmaceutical companies including Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and affiliates including Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt LLC and affiliates, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical USA Inc. and affiliates, and Allergan Finance LLC and affiliates. The lawsuit alleges that the companies used false and deceptive marketing practices, and that these practices contributed to an opioid epidemic in New York. In line with other US states, New York has experienced raised levels of addiction and overdose related to prescription opioids in recent years. Purdue Pharma deny any wrongdoing and say the lawsuit ignores the many measures they have taken to address the opioid crisis. They link increases in opioid use and overdose with growing use of illicit fentanyl.

Sources: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/03/28/new-york-ag-files-opioid-lawsuit-against-purdue-pharma-jj-mckesson.html

https://www.cnn.com/2019/03/28/health/new-york-attorney-general-opioid-sackler-family-sued/index.html

Makers of Suboxone charged with fraudulent marketing in the US

Posted 08-May-19

Invidior, which was part of Reckitt Benkiser until 2014, has been charged by the US Justice Department with fraudulently marketing a medication designed to treat opioid addiction. The charges relate to Suboxone Film, which was used as a form of opioid substitution therapy (OST). The Justice Department has charged Invidior with targeting people who were addicted to opioids and with falsely claiming that Suboxone Film was safer and less prone to diversion and abuse than other forms of OST. The Justice Department further claims that these practices compromised healthcare treatment for those seeking help with opioid addiction. Invidior and Reckitt Benckiser deny the allegations.

Sources: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/09/opioid-addiction-indivior-indictment

https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47879868

Los Angeles to pardon up to 50,000 cannabis convictions

Posted 08-May-19

Following legalisation of cannabis in California, Los Angeles officials plan to reduce or expunge up to 50,000 historic cannabis convictions using computer algorithms to identify eligible cases. The intention is to prevent historic convictions restricting people’s employment, finance, travel and other social opportunities. The use of technology to identify records means that the changes can be made on a large scale over a short amount of time, making the process more feasible than previously considered. All changes to convictions will be free and automatic, although some people’s records may be changed without their knowledge.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/apr/01/california-marijuana-convictions-wiped-out-code-for-america

US state of Georgia legalises needle exchange facilities

Posted 08-May-19

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill to legalise needle exchange facilities, approving a bill that was passed earlier in 2019. The bill amends existing laws that made transactions involving syringes and other drug-related objects illegal. The amendments, which have now been passed into law, state that needle exchange facilities will be regulated by the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Source: https://www.wrbl.com/news/local-news/georgia-governor-signs-hb-217-legalizing-needle-exchange-programs/1909035066

Three US states raise minimum age of tobacco purchase

Posted 08-May-19

The states of New York, Illinois, and Washington have all passed bills to raise the minimum age for tobacco purchase to 21. The legislation means that there are now nine US states that have passed ‘Tobacco 21’ policies: California, Hawaii, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts and New Jersey. Furthermore, Arkansas, Virginia and Maryland are due to pass similar legislation later in 2019. An additional 440 cities and counties have also enacted laws that restrict tobacco sales to people aged 21 and over.

Sources: https://www.tobaccofreekids.org/press-releases/2019_04_01_newyork21

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/07/health/illinois-tobacco-age/index.html

https://www.peninsuladailynews.com/news/washington-state-raises-smoking-age-to-21/

https://www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/local/maryland/2019/04/19/smoking-vaping-age-rising-21-maryland/3509119002/

US state of Colorado approves medical cannabis as autism treatment

Posted 08-May-19

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) was added to the list of conditions for which medical cannabis is approved in a bill passed in Colorado on world autism day. The law means that young people will be able to access medical cannabis if ASD is diagnosed by two physicians. Colorado is now the ninth US state to approve medical cannabis for treating ASD with five further states described as ‘autism friendly’ where physicians have discretion to recommend medical cannabis for a range of conditions.

Source: https://www.thefix.com/medical-marijuana-use-autism-approved-colorado-governor

US Food and Drug Administration grants final approval for generic nasal naloxone

Posted 08-May-19

A generic naloxone nasal spray has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in reversing the effects of an opioid overdose. Previous approvals have covered brand name naloxone nasal spray and naloxone injectors, but this is the first generic approval for a product that can be used by people without medical training. The approval means that Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc. can now market the generic naloxone nasal spray.

Source: https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm636333.htm

US immigrants to be refused citizenship over cannabis activities

Posted 08-May-19

Guidance from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has highlighted that people could be denied US citizenship if they have had any involvement with cannabis use, production or sale, even if such involvement was in states where cannabis is legal. The US federal government considers cannabis to be a Schedule I drug, with immigration and citizenship decisions based on federal rather than state law. The guidance states that exceptions can be made for single offences relating to possession of under 30g of cannabis.

Source: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/u-s-says-immigrants-can-be-denied-citizenship-over-marijuana-ties-even-in-states-where-its-legal/

Columbia crop substitution programmes clear 35,000 hectares of coca in 8 months

Posted 08-May-19

Investigators from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that nearly 35,000 hectares of coca crops were destroyed in Columbia between May 2018 and January 2019 through voluntary substitution programmes. The Columbian president Iván Duque has voiced his preference for forced, rather than voluntary, eradication programmes claiming that they would address coca trade and related crime with greater efficiency. Critics have warned that forced eradication programmes risk increased conflict among farmers and rural communities.

Source: https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/crop-eradication-vs-substitution-doubts-crippling-colombia-rural-communities/

Clashes in Peru over coca eradication programmes leave two farmers dead

Posted 08-May-19

Violence between Peruvian authorities and farmers in San Gaban, which lies on the border of Peru and Bolivia, has resulted in the death of two farmers. An eradication team of over 200 people comprising civilian workers and police had planned to destroy illegal coca farms but reported that they were attacked by people with machetes as they set up camp. The police response resulted in two farmers being shot. Peru’s police force has sent re-enforcements to the area to ensure that the eradication efforts continue. Peru’s government plans to destroy 25,000 hectares of illegal coca crops before 2021.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-peru-drugs/clashes-in-peru-coca-eradication-operation-leave-at-least-two-dead-idUSKCN1RO2B1

Belgian minister announces new regulations for alcohol advertising

Posted 08-May-19

The Belgian Public Health Minister Maggie de Block has announced new regulations for alcohol advertising. The regulations were agreed between the Belgian government, representatives of the Belgian drinks industry and the Advertising Industry Council. All new adverts must be passed by the Jury for Ethical Advertising Practices, which previously would only become involved in regulating advertising where a complaint had been made. Adverts for alcoholic drinks will only be approved if they do not target young people or encourage excessive drinking.

Source: http://brusselstimes.com/belgium/health/15097/new-stricter-rules-on-ads-for-alcoholic-drinks

Croatia legalises cultivation of medical cannabis

Posted 08-May-19

The Croatian parliament has passed legislation to allow production and cultivation of cannabis for medical and therapeutic purposes. The parliament has also re-tabled a debate on its psychoactive substance laws. The change in policy direction follows an official pardon by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic for a man who was initially sentenced to prison for possession of cannabis that he used to treat multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Source: http://www.tellerreport.com/news/--croatia-legalizes-production-of-therapeutic-cannabis-.Bk7mQSBYV.html

Driving under the influence of drugs becomes a criminal offence in Georgia

Posted 08-May-19

The Ministry of Internal Affairs in Georgia has announced that driving under the influence of drugs or psychoactive substances will be a criminal offence from 1 April. The amendment to current laws means that police can request drivers to take drug tests and that offenders may be subject to a fine, or up to one year in prison, as well as having their driving licence revoked for up to three years.

Source: http://georgiatoday.ge/news/15063/Driving-under-Influence-of-Drugs-Becomes-Criminal-Offense

Latvia bans point of sale tobacco displays

Posted 08-May-19

The Latvian parliament, the Saeima, has approved amendments to the law on Handling of Tobacco Products that ban point of sale displays of tobacco. According to the amendments, which are due to be implemented on 1 October 2020, only price lists of tobacco products will be permitted to be openly displayed. The new regulations will apply to tobacco products as well as e-cigarettes and refilling tanks. Specialist tobacco stores with a separate entrance will be exempt from the changes.

Source: https://bnn-news.com/latvia-adopts-serious-restrictions-on-visibility-of-tobacco-products-in-stores-199205

Ethiopia bans alcohol advertising

Posted 08-May-19

The Ethiopian parliament has passed a proclamation banning billboard advertising for alcoholic drinks. The proclamation also bans providing alcoholic drinks as lottery prizes and selling alcohol in several specific locations including cinemas, government institutions, sports venues, and universities. Any adverts for alcohol on television or radio will have to contain a warning that alcohol sales are illegal to people under 18 years old. The ban follows several recent initiatives in Ethiopia promoting healthy living that have included smoking restrictions and a car-free day in major cities.

Source: https://www.newsday.co.zw/2019/04/ethiopia-passes-tough-law-regulating-alcohol-sales-adverts/

Seychelles to legalise e-cigarettes

Posted 08-May-19

E-cigarettes are due to become legal in Seychelles and will be classed alongside tobacco products and incorporated into tobacco control laws. Currently all alternative nicotine products are banned in the Seychelles according to laws that were drafted in 2009 before e-cigarettes were commercially available. The amendment has been approved by the Cabinet of Ministers and will place regulations, health warnings and licencing conditions on all alternative nicotine products.

Source: https://africandailyvoice.com/en/2019/03/27/seychelles-introduce-new-regulation-legalising-electronic-cigarette/

Egypt parliament bans new drugs, and drug preparation activities

Posted 08-May-19

Several amendments to Egypt’s drug laws proposed by the government were passed by the parliamentary constitutional and legislative affairs committee. The amendments add several new drugs to the list of prohibited substances and introduce a new law meaning that people caught in a place preparing drugs will be liable to a minimum prison sentence of one year and a fine of between EGP 1,000 and 10,000.

Source: https://menafn.com/1098305691/Egypt-Parliament-approves-amendments-to-terrorism-drugs-laws

Saudi Arabia executes 21 people for drug offences in three months

Posted 08-May-19

Forty-three people were executed in Saudi Arabia between 1 January and 31 March 2018, 21 of whom were executed for drug offences according to figures from human rights organisations including Death Penalty Worldwide, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Executions in Saudi Arabia have reportedly doubled under the new ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and are predicted to reach the highest number since monitoring started in 2000. Saudi Arabia has the third highest number of recorded executions annually behind China and Iran.

Source: https://www.gulf-times.com/story/626913/Saudi-on-course-for-record-beheadings-this-year

Cambodia releases figures for recent drug arrests

Posted 08-May-19

Cambodia’s recent ‘crackdown’ on drug use and drug trafficking has resulted in 4,434 arrests in the first quarter of 2019. Of these, 2,272 were related to drug trafficking and 2,162 related to drug use. Cambodia has no death sentence for drug crimes but does have a life sentence for people caught with over 80 grams of illicit drugs.

Source: http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2019-04/05/c_137952781.htm

China bans all variants of fentanyl following agreement with US president

Posted 08-May-19

Chinese officials have announced a ban on all variants of fentanyl. Until now a range of fentanyl-related drugs have been banned but the legal status of variants has been reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The new ruling will cover all variants of fentanyl ensuring that makers of new substances cannot avoid prosecution by making small alterations to the chemical composition of a substance. The ban does not, however, cover precursor chemicals. The change follows a commitment reportedly made by the Chinese President Xi Jinping, to the US president Donald Trump in 2018. American officials claim that China is responsible for most of the fentanyl used in the US. Chinese officials, however, deny this, saying that the problem lies within the US.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/01/world/asia/china-bans-fentanyl-trump.html

Macau proposes adding 21 new substances to anti-drug laws

Posted 08-May-19

The Executive Council of Macau announced that it will amend the existing ‘Law on the Prohibition of the Illicit Production, Trafficking and Consumption of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances’ which was passed in 2009. The amendments will add 19 new drugs to the list of illicit substances as well as 2 substances identified as precursors used in the manufacture of illicit drugs. Previous amendment bills, one in 2014 and one in 2016, have both been passed by the Macau legislature.

Source: https://macaunews.mo/govt-proposes-adding-new-drugs-to-anti-drug-law/

Myanmar releases 9,000 prisoners in new year amnesty

Posted 08-May-19

Drug offenders were among the first of 9,000 prisoners to be released in a new year amnesty by the government of Myanmar. Myanmar regularly releases prisoners on the new year holiday, and this year the President Win Myin said that the releases were ‘for the peace and pleasure of the people and taking into consideration humanitarian concerns’. Myanmar prisons are often overcrowded and many of those released this year were reportedly imprisoned for drug charges.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-amnesty/myanmar-pardons-more-than-9000-prisoners-in-new-year-amnesty-idUSKCN1RT0J4

Philippines supreme court orders release of documents on drug enforcement killings

Posted 08-May-19

The Philippine supreme court has ordered the solicitor general to provide two international rights organisations with police documents on drug related killings. The request had previously been rejected on the grounds that doing so would undermine national security. Official figures from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency estimate that around 5,000 people have died as a direct result of the Philippines’ war on drugs since July 2016. Those figures contrast with estimates from human rights groups that between 12,000 and 20,000 people have died in that same period.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/03/philippines-court-orders-release-of-police-files-on-thousands-of-drug-war-deaths

Uzbekistan ends state monopoly on alcohol production

Posted 08-May-19

As part of ongoing privatisation reforms, the Uzbekistan government has ended the state monopoly on alcohol production and sale. The state company JSC “Uzsharobsanoat” will now be liquidised, with the state then establishing agencies to inspect, regulate and licence future alcohol trade and associated business.

Source: http://www.mondaq.com/x/790802/food+drugs+law/Privatization+reforms+ending+state+monopoly+in+alcohol+industry

Amnesty International report on the death penalty lists 98 drug related executions in 2018

Posted 08-May-19

A report from international human rights organisation Amnesty International has reported that at least 98 verified drug-related executions were recorded across four countries, China, Iran, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, in 2018. The report notes that data on use of the death penalty in Vietnam were not available, and that data from China were likely to be incomplete. The report estimates that drug-related executions reduced by 28% in 2018 compared with 2017, and that drug-related executions comprised 14% of the global total.

Source: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/04/death-penalty-facts-and-figures-2018/

Philip Morris launches life insurance company with discounts for vaping, IQOS and quitting smoking

Posted 08-May-19

Philip Morris International (PMI) has started a new life insurance company called Reviti. The company will offer discounts on life insurance premiums for people who quit cigarettes, or who use non-combustible tobacco products. Customers who smoke will receive a 2.5% discount for switching to vaping, a 25% discount for switching to IQOS (a heat-not-burn tobacco device produced by Philip Morris) for three months and a 50% discount for quitting smoking for one year.

Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/23/tobacco-company-philip-morris-launches-life-insurance-company-reviti.html