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 John Witton, News and Notes Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966;
e-mail john.witton@kcl.ac.uk

Sri Lanka Ends Moratorium on Death Penalty for Drug Offences

Posted 13-Mar-19

Sri Lanka’s Justice Minister, Thalatha Athukorale, announced that five people convicted of drugs crimes are due to be executed, a move that would end a 42-year moratorium on capital punishment. Until now people found guilty of murder, rape or drug-related crimes have sometimes been sentenced to death, but those sentences have routinely been changed to one of life imprisonment. The end of this moratorium comes as part of President Maithripala Sirisena’s widely publicised ‘hard line’ on drug use.

Source: 

https://www.malaymail.com/news/world/2019/02/05/minister-sri-lanka-ready-for-landmark-hanging-of-drug-convicts/1720082

Egypt's Cabinet Approves the Death Penalty for Drug Smugglers

Posted 13-Mar-19

Egypt’s cabinet has passed a draft law approving the death penalty for people found guilty of importing illicit drugs. The law is one of several measures intended to address drug use in Egypt; other measures include fines of up to $11,300 and prison sentences of at least one year for people found in possession of drugs for personal use. According to Amnesty International, Egypt courts have issued over 1,400 death sentences since 2013.

Sources: 

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20190131-egypt-approves-death-penalty-for-drug-dealers/

https://ww.egyptindependent.com/egypts-cabinet-approves-death-penalty-for-drug-dealers/

Philippines Approves Medical Cannabis Consumption and Production

Posted 13-Mar-19

The lower house of the Philippines Congress, supported by President Rodrigo Duterte, has approved a bill that will legalise cultivation, consumption and production of medical cannabis. The change will allow licenced doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and HIV. It also contains provisions for researchers to investigate further potential uses of medical cannabis.

Source: 

https://www.talkingdrugs.org/philippines-house-of-representatives-approves-medical-cannabis-use-production

Cyprus Legalises Medical Cannabis Cultivation and Use

Posted 13-Mar-19

Cyprus has legalised cultivation, import, export and use of medical cannabis. The law sets out a framework for producing and licencing medical cannabis as well as guidelines for medical research. Medical cannabis will be available on prescription for patients suffering from ‘cancer, HIV, degenerative diseases of the motor system, rheumatism, neuropathy, glaucoma, Tourette's syndrome and Crohn's disease’. Three licences are due to be provided in the first 15 years of the law to encourage investment in medical cannabis whilst limiting its distribution. The amendment to existing drug laws was passed by 34 votes to 18.

Source: 

http://www.financialmirror.com/news-details.php?nid=36540

US Justice Department Sues to Prevent Safe Injecting Facility Opening in Philadelphia

Posted 13-Mar-19

The US federal government has issued a lawsuit to prevent the city of Philadelphia from opening a safer injecting facility. The facility, run by a non-profit organisation Safehouse, is intended to allow people to inject illegal drugs under supervision with the aim of reducing overdoses and other harms from injecting drug use. The US Justice Department has previously stated that it will prevent cities from opening safer injecting facilities and, despite interest from San Francisco, Seattle and New York, no such facilities have yet officially opened. The lawsuit is set to establish whether safer injecting facilities violate federal law.

Sources: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/justice-department-sues-philadelphia-over-supervised-injection-facility-that-aims-to-prevent-fatal-drug-overdoses/2019/02/06/ed9815a4-2a55-11e9-984d-9b8fba003e81_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c8c2052f845b

https://www.philly.com/news/supervised-injection-sites-philadelphia-stop-safehouse-us-attorney-opioid-crisis-20190206.html

Ethiopian Parliament Passes Ban on Public Tobacco Use and Alcohol Advertising

Posted 13-Mar-19

The Ethiopian parliament has passed a ‘Food and Medicine Administration Proclamation’ placing restrictions on tobacco use and alcohol advertising. The proclamation will prohibit tobacco use in public places, workplaces, outdoor parts of healthcare facilities, government institutions, schools and higher education institutions. It will also raise the age of legal alcohol purchase to 21 whilst banning broadcast and billboard alcohol advertising.

Source: 

https://www.thereporterethiopia.com/article/lawmakers-ban-public-smoking-alcohol-adverts

Israel Approves Trial of MDMA for PTSD

Posted 13-Mar-19

Israel’s Ministry of Health has approved trials of MDMA as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The trials will involve around 50 patients and are set to take place in several treatment centres across Israel. MDMA may be made available by the Ministry of Health for people outside of the clinical trials in ‘compassionate’ cases where people suffering from PTSD have not responded to other treatments. The trials are due to start immediately.

Source: 

https://www.newsweek.com/mdma-be-used-trauma-treatment-israel-and-us-may-not-be-far-behind-1326663

New Zealand to Ban Smoking and Vaping in Cars with Children

Posted 13-Mar-19

Smoking or using e-cigarettes in cars where children are present will soon be prohibited in New Zealand. An amendment to the Smoke-free Environments Act 1990, announced by Associate Health Minister Jenny Salesa, is intended to reduce child exposure to smoking. Once the amendment is passed, police will be able to stop people smoking in cars where under 18s are present, as well as having the authority to issue warnings and fines of up to $50. Police will also be able to refer offenders to stop smoking services. The move aligns with the New Zealand government’s commitment to becoming a smoke-free country by 2025.

Source: 

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12202406 

Hong Kong to Prohibit Possession, Sale, and Import of E-cigarettes

Posted 13-Mar-19

A bill to ban the manufacture, sale, distribution, import or promotion of e-cigarettes and heat-not-burn products has been submitted to Hong Kong’s legislative council. The bill would not make e-cigarette use illegal, but people using them in non-smoking areas could face fines of up to HK$5,000. The maximum penalty for import or sale would be HK$50,000 or up to six months in prison. The bill had its first reading on 20 February 2019.

Source: 

https://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2185942/hong-kong-proposes-blanket-ban-e-cigarettes

Naloxone to Be Prescribed Alongside Opioid Prescriptions in 7 US States

Posted 13-Mar-19

In the US, California, Virginia, Arizona, Ohio, Washington, Vermont and Rhode Island have implemented regulations requiring doctors to prescribe naloxone alongside opiate painkillers for patients at high risk of overdose. High risk indicators include patients with large opioid dose requirements, multiple drug prescriptions, sleep apnea or a history of addiction. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nearly 218,000 people died from opioid overdoses in the US between 1999 and 2017.

Source: 

https://www.vnews.com/More-States-Say-Doctors-Must-Offer-Overdose-Reversal-Drug-Along-With-Opioids-23698724

US States to Sue Pharmaceutical Companies for their Role in US Opioid Crisis

Posted 13-Mar-19

Thirty-six states in addition to numerous cities, counties and Native Indian Tribes have filed lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the US opioid crisis. The lawsuits will form a multidistrict litigation (MDL) and will focus on pharamaceutical companies’ alleged oversupply of opioid pain killers, claiming that this has contributed to high levels of harm including overdoses. The lawsuit requests that those pharmaceutical companies who have profited from supplying opioids should pay for costs accumulated from their subsequent overuse, addiction and overdose. The first case will be heard in Oklahoma and is scheduled to start on 28 May.

Sources: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/oklahoma-could-provide-first-test-of-who-will-pay-for-the-opioid-crisis--and-how-much/2019/02/19/c35ad366-3082-11e9-8ad3-9a5b113ecd3c_story.html?utm_term=.8751151c0bb1

https://www.abc12.com/content/news/City-of-Flint-files-lawsuit-against-drug-companies-over-opioid-crisis-506041021.html

UK Drug Testing Clinic Licenced by the Home Office

Posted 13-Mar-19

The first Home Office licenced drug testing service in the UK has opened in Weston-super-Mare and is provided by drug treatment charity Addaction and drug testing organisation The Loop. The service will enable people who use drugs to test the content of illicit substances and will provide harm-reduction advice alongside a report detailing the content of those substances. The service is a pilot which is due to last one year and follows several temporary drug testing services provided at festivals and some city centres over the last three years. It is hoped that the pilot will provide evidence on the effectiveness of drug testing services.

Source: 

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/24/drug-test-clinics-open-support-home-office-police?CMP=share_btn_tw&fbclid=IwAR3XGziPr1YkWcGCOk0Oa-XlkxYK62iXlXMod62cZEvYzyr3FCOW5SHlGpc

Report Estimates Illicit Drug Use in Nigeria to Be Twice the Global Average

Posted 13-Mar-19

A survey by the Nigerian Government, the European Union and The United National Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that 14.4% of Nigerians use drugs; a figure twice the global average. France24 reported on the survey saying that 4.7% of Nigerians now use prescription painkillers, despite a ban on codeine-based cough syrups implemented in 2018. The report means that Nigeria has one of the highest rates in the world of non-medical opiate use. The report also highlights that nearly three million drug-dependent Nigerians are unable to access treatment because of insufficient healthcare provision.

Source: 

https://www.france24.com/en/20190129-nigerians-drugs-use-more-twice-global-average-study

Mexican President Declares an End to War on Drugs

Posted 13-Mar-19

The Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, declared Mexico’s war on drugs to be over. His statement came in response to questioning over low numbers of drug ‘kingpin’ arrests. The Mexican government has used the army to fight drug cartels since 2006 and has seen an increase in homicides and violence during that time. Obrador has said that he now intends to prioritise public safety over a continued military response to drug cartels.

Source: 

https://nypost.com/2019/01/30/mexican-president-declares-end-to-drug-war/

Pakistan Implements Graphic Health Warnings on Cigarette Packets

Posted 13-Mar-19

Cigarettes for sale in Pakistan will soon be required to contain pictorial health warnings on packets and outers. New packets will be in circulation from 1 June 2019 and will include health warnings covering 60% of the packet. The health warnings are hoped to reduce smoking among some of the 24 million tobacco users in Pakistan. They will also help Pakistan align with the principles of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to which it is a signatory.

Source: 

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/425190-pakistan-to-print-new-pictorial-health-warning-on-cigarette-packs-outers

Singapore Introduces Plain Packaging for Tobacco Products

Posted 13-Mar-19

Singapore has passed legislation requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain packaging. The transition will take place over 9 to 12 months so that retailers are able to make the necessary changes. New packaging will be a standardised colour, contain no brand logos and will display brand and product names in a standardised font. Graphic health warnings will be 25% larger than at present. The move builds on regulations in 2017 that banned point of sale displays and increased the minimum age of purchase of cigarettes. Edwin Tong, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health, said that smoking prevalence in Singapore has remained between 12 and 14% over the last 10 years and that introducing plain packaging legislation would help reduce this figure.

Source: 

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/plain-packaging-for-tobacco-cigarettes-bill-passed-parliament-11230234

US FDA Approves Esketamine to Treat Depression

Posted 13-Mar-19

Federal regulators in the US have approved a nasal spray that delivers Esketamine, the active ingredients in ketamine. Esketamine will be used to treat severe depression, and although such treatments have been available in recent years they have been ‘off label’ and therefore not covered by medical insurance in the US. An expert panel concluded that the benefits of Esketamine outweighed the risks. The New York Times reported that the FDA ‘typically follows the recommendations of its expert panels’. The FDA approved the drug on 5 March 2019.

Source: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/12/health/depression-drugs-ketamine.html

Court Rules Drunk Driving Not Illegal in Kenya

Posted 13-Mar-19

A court in Kiambu, Kenya has ruled that drunk driving is not an offence unless there is evidence that the motorist is unable to control the vehicle. A case where a man was charged with drunk driving following a breathalyser reading over the agreed limit was dismissed from court by Senior Resident Magistrate Bryan Khaemba, who said that prosecutors had been ‘unable to establish a prima facie case against the accused … on the control of the said vehicle or lack of it’. The ruling means that positive breath tests will no longer be sufficient to secure a drunk driving conviction if loss of control cannot be proved by prosecutors.

Sources: 

https://citizentv.co.ke/news/drunk-driving-not-an-offence-in-kenya-court-rules-231871/

https://www.tuko.co.ke/298643-driving-influence-alcohol-a-crime-kiambu-court-rules.html#298643

Drug Testing Provided to Students at University in New Zealand

Posted 13-Mar-19

Otago University Students’ Association in New Zealand will offer free drug testing at the beginning of the year for new students. The drug testing facilities will analyse the contents of recreational drugs submitted by students and will offer harm reduction advice to those doing so. Drug testing services have been provided at several music festivals in New Zealand in the last year.

Source: 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/20/new-zealand-university-students-offered-free-drug-testing-in-harm-prevention-first

Turkey to Introduce Plain Packaging for Cigarettes

Posted 13-Mar-19

An amendment to the Prevention and Control of Hazards of Tobacco Products has been made to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes in Turkey. The regulations mean that cigarettes will have to be sold in packages of uniform colour and in a standard size and shape. The packets must also contain health warnings and display the brand name in a regulation font.

Source: 

http://www.mondaq.com/turkey/x/782576/Healthcare/Turkey+to+Require+Plain+Packaging+on+Tobacco+Products

FDA Helps the Development of OTC Naloxone in US

Posted 12-Feb-19

According to CNBC News, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has developed its own ‘drug fact labels’ (DFLs) for naloxone products to speed up the process of making naloxone available over the counter. The labels are intended to make it easier for users to understand when and how to use these products. This is apparently the first time the FDA has taken such an initiative for a drug.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2019/01/16/fda-wants-pharma-to-bring-opioid-antidote-naloxone-over-the-counter.html

https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm629571.htm

Singapore Amends its Misuse of Drugs Act

Posted 12-Feb-19

Channel News Asia reports that the Singapore parliament has amended the country’s Misuse of Drugs Act to make it an offence to distribute information on how to consume, produce or sell drugs. The amendments allow for exceptions to be made for purposes considered to be legitimate that relate to the administration of justice, science, medicine, education and art. Other amendments to the Act include compulsory rehabilitation for repeat drug offenders as well as measures to create new crimes relating to exposing children to drugs, and knowingly leaving drugs within the reach of children.

Source:

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/misuse-drugs-act-amendments-shanmugam-parliament-11126582

Thailand Considers E-cigarette Ban Implementation

Posted 12-Feb-19

According to The Chiang Rai Times, Thailand’s government has requested its Tobacco Control Research and Knowledge Management Centre (TRC) to investigate how it might address what the Thai government sees as problems implementing a ban on e-cigarettes. Currently, the sale and import of e-cigarettes is illegal in Thailand, but their use is not. Tourism representatives have also raised concerns about tourists visiting Thailand who are often unaware of the current ban. The report is due to be completed in 6 months, when the TRC will decide on what action to take.

Source:

https://www.chiangraitimes.com/e-cigarettes-vaping-under-study-in-thailand-after-enforcement-problems-emerge.html

Australian Pill Testing Debate Continues

Posted 12-Feb-19

In a letter to the New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her state and territory counterparts, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) has urged the Australian government to support pill testing trials at Australian music festivals. The letter follows similar calls from the Australian Medical Association and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, and follows a series of MDMA-related deaths over the summer period. Berejiklian has so far rejected calls for pill testing at festivals saying that there is no evidence that it saves lives, and that such facilities may give drug users ‘a false sense of security’. The president of the RACP Dr Martin Lloyd Jones said that there was ‘good evidence to show that people who submit their drugs for testing are quite likely to act on this information given to them’, and that there is ‘no evidence that pill testing is causing harm or increases the risk of people taking drugs when they otherwise might not’.

Sources:

https://www.theage.com.au/national/nsw/evidence-backs-pill-testing-trials-physicians-tell-berejiklian-20190117-p50s1i.html

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/we-would-consider-it-premier-softens-her-stance-on-pill-testing-20190102-p50p8n.html?_ga=2.45969318.384437078.1548774543-318966042.1547804656

 

Tobacco Industry and Free Market Thinktank Links Revealed

Posted 12-Feb-19

An investigation by The Guardian has found that ‘At least 106 thinktanks in two dozen countries have accepted donations from tobacco companies, argued against tobacco control policies called for by the World Health Organization (WHO), or both’. The Guardian used the Atlas Network, a US not-for-profit organization that connects ‘a global network of more than 475 free-market organizations in over 90 countries to the ideas and resources needed to advance the cause of liberty’, as the basis of its investigation. At least 53 of these free-market thinktanks accepted donations from major tobacco companies, according to tobacco company documents and disclosures analysed by The Guardian.

Source:

https://www.theguardian.com/business/ng-interactive/2019/jan/23/free-market-thinktanks-tobacco-industry

Reduction in Age of Criminal Liability in the Philippines

Posted 12-Feb-19

The Asean Post reports that the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, and his administration are pushing a bill that would lower the age of criminal liability from 15 to 12. The bill’s supporters claim that it will protect children from exploitation by enabling law enforcers to prosecute children who act as ‘drug runners’ or ‘mules’, thus deterring their use by drug sellers. The bill includes measures relating to the mandatory confinement of up to 12 years for serious crimes that are reported to include murder and drugs offences. Official figures report that his war on drugs has resulted in 5,000 deaths, while the Philippine Commission on Human Rights has estimated this to be as high as 27,000.

Sources:

https://theaseanpost.com/article/dutertes-new-target-12-year-olds

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/22/world/asia/philippines-juvenile-justice-law.html

 

Ireland Moves to Introduce Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol

Posted 12-Feb-19

The Irish parliament passed a bill on minimum unit pricing for alcohol December 2015 but the bill has not so far been implemented as it was planned to be introduced at the same time as similar measures were introduced in Northern Ireland. However, The Sunday Times reports a spokesperson for Irish Health Minister Simon Harris said that the minister intends to implement the measure as soon as possible because of the ongoing shutdown of the devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Sources:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/minimum-alcohol-pricing-move-in-ireland-wont-wait-for-stormont-6wcqn0gsw

https://health.gov.ie/blog/publications/public-health-alcohol-bill-2015/

 

Singapore to Support Sri Lanka's Fight against Drugs

Posted 12-Feb-19

The Singapore government has agreed to provide technical assistance to Sri Lanka in ‘drug abuse elimination and prevention’. The agreement was negotiated during a recent trade visit to Singapore by the Sri Lankan president. The Daily FT of Sri Lanka reports that the president was were briefed on current drug prevention and elimination initiatives in Singapore and that a team of Singapore officials are now due to visit Sri Lanka to help implement a programme to control drug trafficking.

Sources:

http://www.ft.lk/news/Singapore-to-provide-Sri-Lanka-with-technical-expertise-to-prevent-drug-trafficking/56-671693

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/article/1065440/singapore-to-provide-technical-assistance-in-curbing-drug-smuggling-in-sri-lanka

 

WHO Committee Recommends Re-scheduling of Cannabis

Posted 12-Feb-19

The WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) has recommended that the WHO change its scheduling of cannabis to acknowledge its potential medical benefits. The ECDD recommended that cannabis be removed from Schedule IV of the Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs, but that it remains on Schedule I, a move that acknowledges the potential for cannabis to be medically useful. The ECDD also recommended that cannabidiol not be subject to international controls and be removed from both Schedule I and IV.

Sources:

http://faaat.net/wp-content/uploads/ECDD-cannabis-final-outcome.pdf  

https://transformdrugs.org/who-says-reclassify-cannabis/

All Change in News and Notes

Posted 18-Jan-19

John Witton has, with the help of Jean O’Reilly, been compiling Addiction’s News and Notes column for 7 years. Alas this will be his last column because he is taking well deserved retirement. We are hugely grateful to John for creating such an interesting and useful resource and wish him well in this new phase in his life. His role will be taken by Rob Calder and a newly revamped ‘Addiction News’ column will feature on an also newly revamped journal website. It will also link up with our social media presence led by Suzi Gage. We are hoping that this will make the column more widely read and searchable.