oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of April 11th 2011

We lead this week with a report from the University of Kent Psychedelic Society's multidisciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness, 'Breaking Convention' which discusses MDMA, LSD, psylocybin, ayahuasca, psychotherapy, neuroscience, evolution and consciousness. In other news we look at the mass street protests against the drug war in Mexico, a free methadone maintenance service for women in Iran and criticism of drug courts ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
9 April 2011

Breaking Convention: a UK conference on psychedelic consciousness 

Last weekend, Know Drugs attended the University of Kent Psychedelic Society’s ‘Breaking Convention’. And no, this is not to be confused with the hip hop dance convention – that one has no ‘g’ in breaking. Billed as a multi-disciplinary conference on psychedelic consciousness, a host of academics and speakers from all over the world gathered to share information about their research. Subjects covered included MDMA, LSD, psylocybin, ayahuasca, psychotherapy, neuroscience, evolution and consciousness. 

Links to sites of some of the people featured in this video


Source: Know Drugs 

Thousands in Mexico Take to Street to Protest Drug War -- We Need to Do the Same Here 

Thousands came out yesterday across Mexico to protest the drug war. The protests were led by journalist and poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed last week in drug prohibition-related violence.  More than 37,000 people have been killed since President Calderon launched his "surge" against cartels in December 2006. 

The bloody, unwinnable war is leading more and more elected officials to speak out against drug prohibition. In 2009, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Drug Policy - co-chaired by three former presidents (Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Cesar Gaviria of Colombia and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico) - issued a groundbreaking report declaring the drug war a failure. The report further advocated the decriminalization of marijuana and the need to "break the taboo" on open and honest discussion about international drug prohibition. Since then, former Mexican President Vicente Fox has also said that legalizing drugs would reduce the daily massacres in Mexico.

While elected officials and the "grasstops" are incredibly important voices against the drug war, it is obvious that we need the "grassroots" - we need people to hit the streets against the unwinnable drug war. That's why yesterday's protests in Mexico are inspiring. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Huffington Post

Mexico: 59 bodies found in mass grave

More than 50 bodies have been found in a mass grave in the northern Mexico state of Tamaulipas, near the site where suspected drug gang members massacred 72 migrants last summer.

Ruben Dario, a spokesman for the Tamaulipas state Attorney General's Office, said the site was being excavated to determine the exact number of dead and their identities. An estimated 59 bodies had been found in the mass grave. 

The mass burial was discovered in the township of San Fernando, in the same area where the bodies of 72 migrants, most from Central America, were found shot to death Aug. 24 at a ranch.

Authorities blamed that massacre on the Zetas drug gang, which is fighting its one-time allies in the Gulf cartel for control of the region.

Source: The Telegraph

Uprisings in the Arab world could have positive impact on drug policy

BEIRUT: The wave of popular revolutions sweeping the Arab world could have a positive impact on drug policy in the region by increasing focus on social issues, a drug-treatment specialist said Monday.“We need to improve … the rights of abusers,” said Elie Aaraj, director of Middle East and North Africa Harm Reduction Association (MENAHRA). “We need less oppressive laws. [But] we are in a good environment now and we can go forward.”

Speaking at the 22nd International Conference on Harm Reduction, the world’s biggest symposium on drug treatment and prevention, Aaraj explained that expectations for regional governments to change their perception and response to drug addict were high. Organizers are optimistic that the arrival of over 1,000 international experts, in addition to the rise of pro-democracy and human rights movements across the region, will catapult drug policy to a more humane and effective levels.

MENAHRA hopes that within the next five years 12 different countries, including Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Morocco, will adopt national harm reduction plans, which would see the introduction of more treatment options and the rise of schemes such as free needle exchanges. Such plans currently only exist in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where intravenous drug use has become endemic.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Daily Star Lebanon

Harm Reduction at Work 

For harm reduction and drug policy organizations that aim to improve the health and welfare of people who use drugs, the insights of drug users themselves are essential to shaping effective programs. Harm Reduction at Work gives the necessary know-how to ensure that both employees who do use drugs and those who don't are treated fairly.


Harm Reduction at Work is a practical, hands-on guide written by Raffi Balian and Cheryl White, whose many years of experience in harm reduction, drug user activism, and organizational leadership have made them experts on working with people who use drugs. In addition to outlining the many benefits of hiring drug users, Balian and White provide detailed strategies for recruiting, supervising, and retaining staff.

Download the complete guide, in English or Russian, at this link 

Source: Open Society 

Drugs are a development issue - which is why we should legalise them 

If there is a "war on drugs", this is it. Mexico is undergoing worse violence than has been seen in Latin America in decades. President Felipe Calderon's decision to take the fight to the narcos has been returned with drug gang brutality on a massive scale. If any good is to come out of the tragedy afflicting Mexico, it is that the misguided global approach to drug regulation will be challenged and may, eventually, be changed.

In 2009, the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico made a very public call for legalisation in a high-profile paper. That in itself was a significant milestone. But now a sitting president, Calderon, has said that it is time seriously to debate the idea of legalisation (although he says he opposes it). This is unprecedented. Sitting presidents are expected simply to toe the US line and support the war. But events in Mexico are so exaggerated that, for once, domestic reality appears to have trumped international realpolitik. Calderon's predecessor and fellow conservative, Vicente Fox, has also now come out pro-legalisation.

At the same time, more articles than usual are appearing in the drug-consuming west, across the political spectrum, calling for a rethink of this ridiculous "war", prompted by concerns about failed strategies in their own societies. But where are the voices of the development community? To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian

Unnecessary adulterants: Confusion over Mephedrone Legislation 

In this guest post, Dr Les King and Rudi Fortson Q.C.  highlight how the last government’s meddling in legislation regarding cathinones, including mephedrone, at this time last year has generated confusion for forensic scientists and legal practitioners regarding the precise placing of some cathinones within Class B.  It is a problem that is only now being addressed. 

Instead of accepting the generic definitions of cathinones drafted by members of the ACMD that would cover all the various types of cathinones, the Home Office took the unusual step of changing the legislation to specifically mention mephedrone to ‘send a message’ to the public, presumably in response to the (unfounded) hysteria over mephedrone use by young people.  

In taking this course, one variant of methylmethcathinone (mephedrone) was listed in one sub-paragraph of Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the MDA, while other variants of methylmethcathinone were listed in another sub-paragraph, thereby generating confusion.  Logically, all variants of that substance ought to have been classified as a single group. To understand how this came about requires a little more understanding of the chemistry of cathinones. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: David Nutt’s Blog – Evidence not Exaggeration

BALKA: Women, HIV, and Drug Use in Ukraine 

The fall of the Soviet Union led to a surge in injecting drug use and skyrocketing rates of HIV spread through shared injecting equipment. BALKA: Three Stories chronicles the lives of women struggling with drug use and HIV in Ukraine. 


Source: Open Society

Reaching Women Drug Users in Iran 

As the International Harm Reduction Conference wraps up in Beirut today, we've been energized to learn about methadone making its way into Afghanistan, buprenorphine programs being launched into Lebanon, and the other strides taking place in improving access to drug treatment in the Middle East. 

A remarkable substitution treatment project in the region comes from Tehran, Iran.  Iran has the highest per-capita opiate consumption in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and nearly two-thirds of the country’s HIV cases are the result of injection drug use. Government statistics have estimated Iran has about 1.1 million severely dependent drug users, approximately 7 percent of whom are women. 

While women in Iran may use drugs less frequently than men, they are more likely to die as a result.  Also, as in many countries, women who use drugs face extreme stigma and are much more likely than men to experience unemployment, depression, and anxiety as well as general medical problems than are their male counterparts. Recognizing these hurdles, Dr. Shabnam Salimi and colleagues from the Tehran-based NGO Persepolis in 2007 established a women’s clinic to provide free methadone maintenance treatment as part of harm reduction services directed at women. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Open Society

Author, Graham Hancock on drugs, freedom and consciousness 

Graham Hancock is the author of the major international bestsellers The Sign and The Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, and Heaven’s Mirror. He has become recognised as an unconventional thinker who raises controversial questions about humanity’s past. This interview shows that he also has controversial questions about humanity’s present and future.


Source: Know Drugs 

DrugScope briefing Models of care and building recoveries in communities 

Models of Care – or to give its full title Models of Care for Treatment of Adult Drug Misusers – has played a critical role in shaping the unprecedented expan­sion and development of specialist drug treatment in England in the last decade.

When the Models of Care document appeared in 2002 (it was subsequently updated in 2006) it provided the first national frame­work to guide the commissioning of drug services, and reflected the prevailing professional consensus on ‘what works best ‘ in the treatment of adult drug users. By providing a national framework, it also helped to ensure equity and consistency in commissioning and provision of treatment across the country.

When the 2010 Drug Strategy was published in December it suggested that Models of Care needed updating. On 2 February, the National Treatment Agency launched a consultation on the design of a new service framework to replace Models of Care and to support local areas to deliver the new drug strategy. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope 

DrugScope: Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for public health in England 

The proposals in the HLHP consultation documents are of critical importance for the future of drug and alcohol policy and treatment in England, and the delivery of preventative and early intervention initiatives to reduce the harms caused by drugs and alcohol. 

The success of the public health reforms will be crucial to the delivery of the outcomes in the Drug Strategy 2010 (Reducing demand, restricting supply, building recovery), and to other key areas of Government policy – for example, crime reduction and reducing re-offending (including the reforms set out in the Green Paper Breaking the Cycle) and the DWP’s Work Programme and its success in supporting the long-term unemployed (including benefit claimants affected by drug and alcohol problems) into education, training and work. 

DrugScope believes that bringing drug and alcohol policy into the broader public health remit will create real opportunities for innovative local approaches that will help to support the delivery of the drug strategy and other Government policy objectives. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope 

DrugScope Response: Breaking the cycle: Effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders 

DrugScope welcomes the clear recognition in Breaking the Cycle that effective interventions to support offenders to address drug and alcohol problems are critical to the success of the ‘rehabilitation revolution’. As is highlighted in the Green Paper Evidence Report, the adult Offender Assessment System (OASys) indicates that 48 per cent of adult prisoners and 37 per cent of offenders on probation have a drug misuse need (the OASys figures for alcohol needs are 19 per cent for prisoners and 32 per cent for adults on probation). 

Addressing substance misuse problems is not only critical for the rehabilitation of offenders, it makes good economic sense too. The National Audit Office report Tackling Problem Drug Use (2010) concluded that £1 invested in drug treatment saved £2.50 in subsequent social and criminal justice costs. To learn more please follow this link

Source: DrugScope

Time for a realistic new international drugs framework 

In his opening speech at the 54th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov disagreed with critics that the 50 year old 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs is out of date, but urged the international community to rejuvenate the convention. There is a bewildering inconsistency in Fedotov’s statement: if the convention is not out of date, one wonders why it needs to be rejuvenated.

The 50 year anniversary of the Convention is an opportune moment to start considering treaty reform, the Transnational Institute concluded in a briefing written for the occasion, Fifty Years of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs: A Reinterpretation. In recalling the history of the Single Convention, the briefing clearly shows that the misplaced aura of sacred immutability that currently shrouds the contemporary UN treaty framework is out of date and inconsistent.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Transnational Institute

Governor Martinez Has Only One More Day to Take Action on the Treatment-Instead-of-Incarceration Bill 

Santa Fe – Governor Martinez has yet to take action on the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act that was passed with overwhelming bi-partisan support.  This bill proposes appropriate community-based treatment, instead of incarceration, for non-violent drug possession offenders and people with drug-related probation or parole violations.  

"Governor Martinez needs to make the right decision for New Mexico families and sign this bill." said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. "As a past District Attorney, Governor Martinez knows that providing treatment alternatives to incarceration would improve public safety by freeing up resources so the criminal justice system can more effectively deal with serious violent crime."

Incarcerating people for nonviolent drug offenses has never worked as a solution to drug crime or drug addiction, and it is time to invest in better options. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Drug Policy Alliance 

California Corrections "Realignment" Not Nearly Enough 

Faced with a staggering budget deficit and a prison overcrowding crisis, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the state legislature have approved legislation that would shift responsibility for low-level, nonviolent offenders and parole violators from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to the state's counties. But sentencing and drug reform advocates say the measure merely shifts the burden of the state's corrections overcrowding from the state to the counties, fails to fund crime prevention services like drug treatment, and fails to include real sentencing reforms. 

On Monday, Gov. Brown signed  Assembly Bill 109, the law shifting responsibility for many low-level offenders to the counties.  The law is designed to stop the "revolving door" of low-level offenders cycling and recycling through the prison system, Brown said in a signing statement. But the law will not go into effect unless and until the legislature approves and funds a community corrections grant program, something Republicans in the legislature have opposed. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Stop the Drug War 

EMCDDA to acknowledge excellence in scientific writing 

Europe’s top scientific papers on drug-related topics will be acknowledged this year in a new award launched by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). The prize giving, to take place annually in Lisbon, will celebrate excellence in scientific writing in this area of critical concern to EU citizens. The inaugural event will take place in the margins of the EMCDDA Scientific Committee meeting, being held in the Portuguese capital from 14–15 November.

Articles eligible for nomination for the award will focus on illicit drugs, although findings on licit substances may also be included. The articles will have been published in 2010 in peer-reviewed scientific journals, with the primary author based in an EU Member State or Norway. The award is now open. Nominations close on 2 May 2011. To learn more please follow this link

Source: EMCDDA 

World TB Day Partners call for increased commitment to tackle MDR-TB 

Geneva - On World TB Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Stop TB Partnership are calling on world leaders to step up their commitment and contributions to meet the  goal of diagnosing and treating one million people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) between 2011 and 2015.

Today WHO has released a report, Towards Universal Access to Diagnosis and Treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB by 2015, which presents progress in the MDR-TB response in the countries with the highest burden of drug-resistant TB. "Many countries have made progress, but despite the recent scale up in efforts, the world needs to do much more to get care to all MDR-TB patients who need it," says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "We cannot allow MDR-TB to spread unchecked." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Global Fund

Funding for 2011/12 substance misuse services in prisons

Joint letter from Department of Health, National Offender Management Service and National Treatment Agency confirming funding allocations for substance misuse services in adult prisons in England for 2011/12. The Department of Health became responsible for these services in April 2011. Download Funding for 2011/12 substance misuse services in prisons (PDF, 194K)

Source: Department of Health 

How does the DfE support Drug Education? 

Charles Walker, the Conservative MP for Broxbourne, asks the DfE: 

  • what educational materials, other than information produced by Frank, warning of the dangers attached to drug use his Department supplies to (a) primary and (b) secondary schools; and if he will make a statement;
  • what methods his Department is using to deliver classroom-based drug prevention programmes in (a)   primary and (b) secondary schools; and if he will make a statement  

To read how Nick Gibb, the Schools' Minister replied please follow this link 

Source: Drug Education Forum

Opioid substitution therapy in resource-poor settings

Approximately 10% of new HIV infections worldwide are attributable to injecting drug use, often of an opiate such as heroin. Opioid substitution therapy supplies illicit drug users with a replacement drug, a prescribed medicine such as methadone or buprenorphine, which is usually administered orally in a supervised clinical setting.

The effectiveness of this therapy is recognized in developed countries, where the provision of opioid substitutes to opiate-dependent people is a fundamental component of the response to the dual public health problems of injecting drug use and HIV transmission. However, better prevention of HIV transmission among and from injecting drug users is still needed, especially in resource-poor settings.

Despite the evidence of effectiveness, it is estimated that only 8% of injecting drug users globally currently receive opioid substitution therapy – even less in developing countries. There is substantial global inequity in access – for example, 90% of injecting drug users in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and 69% in Australia are receiving such therapy; compared with 3% in China and India, and none in the Russian Federation, where opioid substitution therapy is not available. To learn more please follow this link

Source: WHO

Prison Uprising in Lebanon 

It is often forgotten that prisoners should be treated with dignity as human beings - this is especially true for the prisoners held in the Roumieh prison in Lebanon. This facility was built to house 1500 inmates but often 5500 people are hold here, 30-35 people in one cell, thousands of them are pre-trial detaines who do not see a judge for several years. In April 2011 an uprising broke out in the prison.


Source: Youtube / HCLU

New guidelines proposed for sentencing drug offenders 

The Sentencing Council has launched a consultation on proposals to introduce new guidelines for judges and magistrates sentencing drug offenders. 

The plans will mean that for the first time in the Crown court, sentences will be based on the court’s assessment of the defendant’s role in the offence, and the quantity of drugs involved or the scale of the operation. Under the guidance, drug barons playing a leading role in large-scale offences will continue to face long prison sentences. 

However, it seeks to distinguish these leading players from those in subordinate roles such as drug mules, who may be coerced or misled into carrying drugs.  To tackle the rise in offences relating to the production of drugs, the guidelines also seek to ensure that tougher sentences are available for those running large-scale operations. The consultation ends on 20 June 2011 and can be found at the Sentencing Council site. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Law Gazette 

Call for evidence about the extemporaneous preparation of methadone  

The General Pharmaceutical Council is running a twelve- to eighteen-month project looking at trends of extemporaneous methadone consumption. Here, ‘extemporaneous’ refers to the mixing of methadone powder with diluents in the pharmacy in order to supply methadone, rather than using ready-mixed methadone.

This call for evidence is open to anyone who is interested, and especially relevant to pharmacy professionals of any kind who regularly dispense methadone in this way. There are currently guidelines covering the topic but they are interim and this call for evidence forms part of a larger review which will also consider guidelines.  You can submit evidence until the 24th June 2011. 

Source: ADFAM 

Drug Policy Forum Special Focus – Drug Courts 

In Drug Courts, Judges Practice Their Own Version of Justice - And "Treatment" 

In Glynn County Georgia, reports the popular radio show This American Life this week, Lindsey Dills is the victim of horrifying injustice in the name of drug treatment. For forging two checks on her parents’ checking account when she was 17, one for $40 and one for $60, Ms. Dills ended up in that county’s drug court for five and a half years, including a total of 14 months behind bars – and then, when she was finally kicked out of drug court, she faced another five-year sentence for the original offense, including six months in state prison. 

In other Georgia counties and in other states, the penalty for this first-time, low-level offense would have been a term of probation and/or drug treatment. Ms. Dills’ harrowing journey includes a lengthy stay in solitary confinement, being denied access to prescribed anti-depression medication and a suicide attempt. When she entered Glynn County drug court, Ms. Dills had no idea that she was entering a Kafkaesque world in which she had virtually no rights, was subject to the whims of a single dangerous judge and would end up losing years of her life in a dark, unexamined corner of the American criminal justice system. 

According to a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance, drug courts across the country exhibit similar (though , one hopes, less extreme) problems. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Alternet

Criminal justice and the courts Full court press

The Justice Policy Institute (JPI) has a new report out on the problems with drug courts, and it's hopeful, sobering, frustrating reading. Drug courts take arrested addicts and put them in intensive, supervised treatment rather than prison. Some courts take arrestees before conviction, others after; on completing the programme the charges can be expunged or they can enter a non-prosecution agreement with the state.

The JPI report points out some real problems with drug courts, the most troubling of which is that they have been shown (in an admittedly small sample) to encourage arrests. Community-based treatment (that is, free treatment for poor addicts that does not involve being arrested) is hard to find; cops arrest addicts to get them the treatment they need, and they end up entangled in the criminal-justice system, often with a felony conviction, a record of which stays with them even when the charge has been formally expunged.

It also argues that people who get kicked out of a drug-court programme—and between 33% and 75% of people who start drug-court rehab do not finish—often face harsher sentences than they would have had they never started the programme, and that poor people and minorities are more likely to be kicked out. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Economist

Legal system is a lousy alternative to intervention for addicts 

Two new U.S. studies suggest special drug courts are far less effective than thought at combating addiction, reducing case backlogs and lowering the number of low-level, nonviolent offenders in jail.   

The Justice Policy Institute and the Drug Policy Alliance have released reports that show the legal system is a lousy alternative to community intervention when dealing with addiction. Drug courts were meant to decrease the number of people in prison for drug offences, help addicts kick their habits and improve public safety.

By helping non-violent offenders overcome their addictions and improve their social stability, the court programs hoped to reduce the criminal behaviour associated with substance abuse while eliminating backlogs. Nice in theory, but not in practice. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Vancouver Sun 

Two reports criticize drug courts; NADCP pushes back

Last week the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) jointly released two separate reports sharply criticizing drug courts, saying that they are inappropriately being used — and overused — as a criminal justice solution to a health problem. The reports were released March 22 on Capitol Hill.

Although in interviews, both JPI and DPA indicated that there was common ground between them and drug courts, the reports drew a scathing response from the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP). The reports were a compilation of research that the NADCP charged was “cherry-picked” to reflect the agendas of both groups.

Yet both the JPI and the DPA say that they think drug courts are good options for some people — those who would go to prison because of their crimes — and not for those whose crimes are so low-level that they would only receive probation or perhaps not even that. Involving people with very low-level offenses in drug court can lead them to spend days in jail that they would not have had to spend had they not entered drug court at all, the reports show. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Weekly 

Drug Courts Poor Public Policy, Reports Charge   

With a pair of reports released Tuesday, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Justice Policy Institute (JPI) have issued a damning indictment of drug courts as a policy response to drug use. Instead of relying on criminal justice approaches like drug courts, policymakers would be better served by moving toward evidence-based public health approaches, including harm reduction and drug treatment, as well as by decriminalizing drug use, the reports conclude.

Since then-Dade County District Attorney Janet Reno created the first drug court in Miami in 1989, drug courts have appeared all over the country and now number around 2,000. In drug courts, drug offenders are given the option of avoiding prison by instead pleading guilty and being put under the scrutiny of the drug court judge. Drug courts enforce abstinence by imposing sanctions on offenders who relapse, including jail or prison time and being thrown out of the program and imprisoned on the original charge. The Obama administration wants to provide $57 million in federal funding for them in its FY 2012 budget.

In a recent teleconference, DPA, JPI, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL), which issued its own critical report on America's Problem-Solving Courts in 2009, slashed away at drug court claims of efficacy and scientific support. Drug courts are harsh on true addicts, don't benefit the public health or safety, and are an inefficient use of criminal justice system resources, they said.

Source: Stop the Drug War

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