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

Malaysia plans to decriminalise drug possession

Posted 02-Sep-19

The Health Minister of Malaysia has confirmed the government’s intention to decriminalise all drug use and possession. There will be no changes the penalties for drug trafficking. The government intends to treat people who use drugs through healthcare rather than criminal justice processes. 

Source: https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3016471/malaysia-plans-decriminalise-small-time-drug-use-and-treat

Singapore bans behaviours that promote drug use

Posted 02-Sep-19

Singapore has made several changes to its Misuse of Drugs Act. The changes include treating behaviours that promote or facilitate drug use as criminal offences. From 1 August 2019 it became an offence to tell someone how to cultivate, produce, traffic or use illicit substances, with a maximum prison term of 10 years and a minimum prison term of 2 years for repeat offenders. The amendments also create a new offence of storing drugs within reach of children and introduce mandatory rehabilitation for people repeatedly testing positive for illicit substances.

Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/better-protection-for-children-as-changes-to-drug-law-kick-in

Smoking at home classified as domestic abuse in Thailand

Posted 02-Sep-19

On 20 August, legislation was passed in Thailand that banned smoking at home. The new law makes it illegal to smoke at home in the presence of other people, with anyone caught doing so liable to face prosecution under domestic abuse laws. The government has set up a hotline for people to report smokers.

Source: https://thethaiger.com/news/national/smoking-at-home-in-thailand-has-been-banned-from-today

Zimbabwe legalises cannabis cultivation

Posted 02-Sep-19

The government of Zimbabwe has announced that it will repeal laws that ban cannabis cultivation. The change is mainly intended to increase industrial hemp production which is used for textiles and paper.  However, the government also intends to encourage farmers to grow medical cannabis for export. The government hopes that cannabis cultivation will help widen Zimbabwe’s export trade which is heavily reliant on tobacco, a crop subject to high levels of regulation and for which demand is reducing.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-06/zimbabwe-to-repeal-cannabis-laws-aims-to-export-crop

https://www.thezimbabwemail.com/farming-enviroment/zimbabwe-to-legalise-growing-of-industrial-cannabis/

Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Senegal sign drug enforcement agreement

Posted 02-Sep-19

Officials from Gambia Guinea Bissau and Senegal have met to sign a Memorandum of Understanding allowing their drug enforcement agencies to share information, training and resources to address drug trade and trafficking in West Africa.

Source: http://thepoint.gm/africa/gambia/article/gambia-senegal-guinea-bissau-ink-mou-to-curb-drug-trafficking

Endo Pharma settles $10m Ohio opioid claim

Posted 02-Sep-19

Endo International has agreed a $10m out-of-court settlement with two Ohio states in advance of a landmark trial set for Autumn 2019. The pharmaceutical company was accused of contributing to the US opioid crisis through inappropriate advertising of its opioid painkiller products. The ongoing trial combines around 2,000 lawsuits against the remaining seven pharmaceutical companies.

Source: https://www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2019/08/20/endo-opioids-lawsuit-trial-settlement-ohio/

Sackler banks subpoenaed for opiate profits

Posted 02-Sep-19

The New York Attorney General’s office has issued subpoenas to several financial institutions in an attempt to retrieve money connected to the Sackler family. The office alleges that the family has dispersed billions of dollars in profits made from opioid sales through those institutions in order to protect the money from being subject to litigation.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/15/health/sacklers-finances-purdue.html

Canada starts pardoning historic cannabis convictions

Posted 02-Sep-19

The Canadian government has started to expunge historic cannabis convictions. People with existing convictions for possession of small amounts of cannabis and who have no other criminal records will receive an official pardon and their criminal record will be deleted. It is thought that over 250,000 Canadians are eligible for an official pardon.

Source: https://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN1UR5BJ-OCATP

Naloxone prescriptions double in the US

Posted 02-Sep-19

The number of naloxone prescriptions issued in the US doubled from 2017 to 2018, increasing from 271,000 to 557,000. Approximately 68,000 people died from drug overdoses in the US in 2018, down from over 70,000 in 2017. Two-thirds of deaths from drug overdose in the US are attributed to opioid drugs.

Source: https://apnews.com/9d4c1c04c3994f158baab797083917b0

New York state to issue fines instead of prison sentences for cannabis

Posted 02-Sep-19

The US state of New York has amended current legislation so that people found in possession of small amounts of cannabis will be issued a fine instead of facing criminal charges. Those found in possession of less than 28g of cannabis will be fined $50, rising to $200 for those found with between 28 and 56g. The new legislation also outlines a process for pardoning historic criminal convictions for for cannabis possession.

Source: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/new-york-decriminalize-marijuana-possession_n_5d3f06a2e4b0db8affabe070 

US spending on drugs report

Posted 02-Sep-19

A report into spending on illicit drugs in the US has found that last-month cannabis use increased by 30% between 2010 and 2016 with spending on cannabis increasing from $42bn to $52bn. Heroin use increased by 10% every year over the same time period. The report estimates that a total of $150bn was spent on cocaine heroin, cannabis and methamphetamine in 2016.

Source: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR3140.html

US agency investigates lung disease in vapers

Posted 02-Sep-19

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with several state healthcare departments to investigate a cluster of lung illnesses in people using vaping devices. The illnesses have been reported in 16 states and by 153 individuals. Symptoms have included coughing fatigue, shortness of breath, and severe breathing difficulties requiring ventilation.

Source: https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-health-vaping-cdc/cdc-probes-lung-illnesses-linked-to-e-cigarette-use-idUKKCN1V80MA

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/21/health/vaping-marijuana-e-cigarettes.html

Brazil cocaine seizures rise by 90%

Posted 02-Sep-19

Authorities in Brazil seized 25.3 tons of cocaine in the first 6 months of 2019, representing a 90% increase on the same period in 2018. Most of the drugs seized were due to be shipped to Europe and Africa with nearly half the drugs were seized at Santos port in southern Brazil. Cocaine seizures have risen since 2014 from 958kg to around 31.4 tons per year.

Source: https://www.voanews.com/americas/brazil-cocaine-seizures-more-90-percent-first-half-2019

Columbia coca cultivation down, production up

Posted 02-Sep-19

A study by the United Nations (UN) has reported that, although Columbian coca production dropped in 2017 and 2018, production of cocaine increased. The area of land used to grow coca reduced by an estimated 2,000 hectares yet cocaine production rose from 1,058 tons to 1,120 tons. The growth in production has been attributed to coca production moving to areas of the country most suited for coca cultivation and that therefore produce higher yields.

Source: https://www.insightcrime.org/news/analysis/less-coca-crops-more-cocaine-colombias-paradox/

Costa Rica reports increased deaths from illicit alcohol

Posted 02-Sep-19

Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health has confirmed that 59 people have been poisoned and 25 people killed since June 2019 due to methanol poisoning from drinking illicit alcohol. The Ministry has released a health warning for nine brands of alcohol that it claims have been tainted. It has also published information on how to spot the signs of methanol poisoning.

Source: https://ticotimes.net/2019/08/06/costa-rica-reports-more-deaths-from-tainted-alcohol-dengue-cases-on-the-rise

Ecuador bans smoking in enclosed public spaces

Posted 02-Sep-19

The Ecuador National Assembly has approved new tobacco-control legislation. The legislation will make it an offence to smoke, or to use snuff, in enclosed public spaces including workplaces, schools, public transport, pubs and nightclubs. Premises breaking the ban could face temporary closure for up to 15 days. The legislation also contains provisions requiring tobacco packaging to carry health warnings and images that show the harmful effects of smoking.

Source: https://www.ecuadortimes.net/ecuador-approved-tobacco-regulation-and-control/

Brazil prison massacre over control of drug trade

Posted 02-Sep-19

Fifty-seven people were killed in a riot in the Brazilian prison of Altamira. The violence is reported to be part of an ongoing war between gangs over drug trade in the Northern Amazon region of Brazil. This latest riot follows the deaths of 55 inmates in May in a series of attacks related to ongoing gang violence in Brazil’s overcrowded prison system.

Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-violence/death-toll-in-brazil-prison-massacre-rises-to-57-with-over-a-dozen-decapitated-idUSKCN1UO1W5

US prosecutors accuse Honduras president of drug trafficking links

Posted 02-Sep-19

US federal prosecutors have filed documents that accuse the president of Honduras of using $1.5m of drug trafficking money to help fund his presidential campaign in 2013. The documents also allege that he received several payments of over $1m in exchange for using his position to protect drug dealers and traffickers. The papers have been filed in preparation for the trial of his brother who was arrested in 2018 in the US on cocaine trafficking charges.

Source: https://www.sfgate.com/world/article/US-prosecutors-accuse-Honduras-president-of-14279729.php

New Zealand adds two synthetic drugs and removes prosecution for drug possession

Posted 02-Sep-19

Amendments to New Zealand’s Misuse of Drugs Act to address use of synthetic drugs have been passed by parliament. Two synthetic drugs, 5F-ADB and AMB-FUBINACA, will now be treated as Class A substances allowing police to search premises in relation to those drugs. The amendments also mean that people found in possession of small amounts of drugs will not face prosecution by police and will instead be referred to drug treatment services.

Source: https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/08/misuse-of-drugs-amendment-bill-proposing-police-discretion-over-drugs-passes-third-reading.html

Police in UK town of Birmingham to carry naloxone

Posted 02-Sep-19

Police in Birmingham, UK, will now carry a nasal naloxone spray to treat people who have overdosed on heroin and other opioids. The initiative follows a report from the police and crime commissioner estimating that someone dies every three days from a drug overdose in the West Midlands, and that police are often the first people to attend overdose incidents ahead of medical services.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-birmingham-49088969

Luxembourg confirms plans to legalise cannabis

Posted 02-Sep-19

The health minister for Luxembourg has confirmed that the government will legalise recreational use of cannabis. The legislation required to implement the change will be drafted in late 2019 and is expected to allow people over the age of 18 to purchase cannabis. It will also include a ban on non-residents purchasing cannabis in Luxembourg in a bid to deter ‘drug tourism’.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/07/luxembourg-to-be-first-european-country-to-legalise-cannabis?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Tweet

UK's medical advisory body rules that cannabis oil is too expensive

Posted 02-Sep-19

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has announced that it will not recommend cannabis oil comprising cannabidiol and clobazam to treat two forms of epilepsy. NICE noted that the drug reduced seizures in people with Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, but that the oil was too expensive to be prescribed on the NHS, and that the long-term effects were not yet known.

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/08/22/cannabis-oil-expensive-prescribe-epileptic-children-nhs-advisory/

EMCDDA report on drug-related deaths

Posted 02-Sep-19

The latest update of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) report into drug related deaths and mortality states that there were over 8,200 deaths involving illicit drugs in the European Union (EU) in 2017. This figure raises to 9,400 if data Norway and Turkey are included. Opioids are implicated in over 80% of drug related deaths in Europe and multiple drugs are implicated in most overdose cases.

Source: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/news/2019/latest-update-on-drug-related-deaths-and-mortality-in-europe_en

Drug deaths at record high in England and Wales

Posted 02-Sep-19

Official figures for England and Wales show that drug deaths rose to an all-time high in 2018. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported 2,917 deaths from illicit drugs in 2018 indicating a rise of 17% from 2017, the biggest single-year rise since 1993. Fatalities were concentrated in the North East of England and among men aged between 40 and 49. The figures bring the rate of drug overdose in England to twice the European average.

Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-49357077

First and second drug offences in Ireland to be treated by health services

Posted 02-Sep-19

People found in possession of small amounts of illicit substances in Ireland will now be referred for health screening and brief interventions instead of being treated in the criminal justice system. Gardaí will have the discretion to issue a caution for people caught for a second time. Those caught a third time will be dealt with through criminal justice systems.

Source: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/first-time-drug-offenders-to-be-referred-to-hse-in-policy-overhaul-1.3974643

https://timesofcbd.com/ireland-decriminalizes-first-and-second-drug-possession-offenses/

Swiss court rules that people who use drugs are eligible for disability benefits

Posted 02-Sep-19

The federal court in Switzerland has ruled that people who experience drug addiction will now be eligible for disability benefits. Until now people using drugs were considered to be responsible for their actions and therefore not eligible for benefits unless their addiction was caused by illness or injury. The Federal Court ruling was based on an update of the available medical evidence and means that addiction will now be treated as an illness. People who are identified as eligible for benefits will be required to undergo drug treatment and may lose their benefits if they refuse to do so.

Sources: https://www.thelocal.ch/20190806/explained-why-swiss-drug-addicts-may-now-be-able-to-claim-disability-insurance

https://lenews.ch/2019/08/09/drug-addicts-entitled-to-welfare-rules-switzerlands-highest-court/

Brussels implements law banning smoking in the presence of young people

Posted 02-Sep-19

The Belgian government has published a law banning smoking in the presence of children. The law is primarily intended to address adults smoking in cars where children are present. Implementation began on 18 August 2019 with an information campaign and an initiative in which inspectors went to school gates to address smoking in cars when children are being driven to school. Inspectors have been authorised to issue on-the-spot fines to offenders.

Source: https://www.brusselstimes.com/all-news/belgium-all-news/63323/inspectors-at-school-gates-from-september-to-enforce-smoking-ban-in-cars/ 

Montenegro bans smoking indoors

Posted 02-Sep-19

From 14 August 2019 smoking in enclosed workplaces and public places was banned in Montenegro. Premises owners were given one month to adapt to the new law before inspections started. Offenders could face fines of between 500 and 20,000 euros. Casinos are exempt from the new law and businesses are permitted to set up smoking rooms where their use is restricted solely to smoking.

Sources:  https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-08-montenegro-indoor.html

https://www.total-montenegro-news.com/lifestyle/4830-ashtrays-removed-penalties-only-from-september

Sweden launches automatic alcohol barrier for drivers

Posted 02-Sep-19

The Swedish port of Gothenburg has installed an automatic alcohol barrier for drivers entering the area. The barrier system will select drivers at random to submit to a breath test. Drivers recording a high blood-alcohol content will cause the barrier to remain closed, barring access to Gothenburg.

Source: https://nordan.org/swedens-first-automatic-alcohol-checks-introduced-in-gothenburg/

WHO report on global tobacco epidemic

Posted 02-Sep-19

A report on global tobacco-control measures produced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified 36 countries that have introduced at least one of the WHO recommended tobacco-control policies since 2017. The report was launched in Brazil which was the second country, after Turkey, to introduce all the WHO tobacco-control recommendations at the highest level. The report also identified 59 countries that have not implemented any of the WHO recommended tobacco-control policies.

Source: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/26-07-2019-who-launches-new-report-on-the-global-tobacco-epidemic