oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of August 29th 2011

We lead this week with news that former Mexican President Vicente Fox suggested on Friday that Mexican authorities consider calling on drug cartels for a truce and offering them amnesty, speaking out a day after an apparent cartel attack on a casino killed 52 people ~ MW
Mark Weiss
29 August 2011

Lead Story: 

Ex-Mexico prez suggests truce with drug cartels 

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Former President Vicente Fox suggested Friday that Mexican authorities consider calling on drug cartels for a truce and offering them amnesty, speaking out a day after an apparent cartel attack on a casino killed 52 people. 

Fox, who served from 2000 to 2006, has since advocated legalizing drugs as a way to reduce violence. At least 35,000 and as many as 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006. "I want to start a public debate on the following ideas ... call on the violent groups for a truce" and "evaluate the advisability of an amnesty law," Fox said in a speech at an anti-crime event. 

Last week, the attorney general of the violence-wracked southern state of Guerrero, Alberto Lopez Rosas, drew criticism when he called on cartels to establish a truce among themselves to prevent civilian casualties in their bloody turf battles. To learn more please follow this link, and read our 'Mexico and the Americas' section below.

Source: Associated Press

UK News Roundup

Official Figures Show Second Successive Annual Reduction in Drug Misuse Deaths in England 

Official figures released today record a 6% fall in the number of deaths related to drug misuse in England from 1731 in 2009 to 1625 in 2010. 

This is the second successive annual reduction and means the latest total for England is once again lower than the 1697 recorded in 2001. Paul Hayes, NTA chief executive, said:  “The fall in the number of deaths from drug misuse reflects encouraging trends shown by official drug treatment statistics, indicating declining demand for treatment, particularly among the under 30s, and a reduction in overall heroin and crack use and injecting. 

 “The NTA continues to work closely with local teams to prevent deaths and health harms from drug misuse wherever possible. This will be a key part of the new public health system which is being created to promote public health and encourage behaviour change to help people live healthier lives and help reduce mortality. 

 “The best way to prevent deaths from drug misuse is to not use drugs in the first place. For those that do misuse drugs, the best way to prevent death is to support people to recover from addiction. The government’s new Drug Strategy is clear that the goal of all treatment is to enable people to overcome dependence and achieve sustainable recovery.” To learn more please follow this link 

Source: National Treatment Agency 

New Guide Summarises the Health Harms of Drugs 

An updated guide summarising the health harms of drug and alcohol misuse is available, aimed at supporting non-medical practitioners working with substance misuse issues.  “A summary of the health harms of drugs” updates the 2003 “Dangerousness of Drugs” guide, outlining acute and chronic problems associated with each substance, as well as:

  • Factors that mediate or moderate the risk
  • Potential health risks linked to substances commonly added to illicit drugs
  • The influence of different circumstances of use, e.g poly-substance abuse                   

This essential guide for drug and alcohol treatment professionals provides the most up to date scientific evidence on the health harms arising from licit and illicit substance misuse. The update includes new drugs since the guide was last published, such as novel synthetic drugs and takes a more in-depth look at the potential harms of using more than one drug and the adulterants commonly added to illegal drugs. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: National Treatment Agency 

Treatment for addiction is bringing drug use down, not pushing it up

In the lively drugs debate following the tragic death of Amy Winehouse, it is important to keep a cool head for figures. A Datablog commentary by James Ball and Simon Rogers misunderstood some of the numbers it sought to explain (Drug deaths, misuse and overdose statistics in England, 24 July).

While correct that 206,000 people in England received an intervention for drug addiction at the last count, it was wrong that "around 62,600 completed some form of treatment". Not all who left the system in 2009-10 completed a course of treatment – many were referred to other agencies, sent to prison or dropped out.

That left about 143,400 remaining in the system, meaning they continued to derive real benefit from a course of structured treatment. They commit less crime, pose less of a risk to public health, and are in active therapy. This is an important milestone to recovery, given that four out of five patients are heroin addicts and experts acknowledge it takes several years to beat addiction. To learn more please follow this link

Source: The Guardian 

Payment by Results co-design group consultation: Joint response from DrugScope and the UK Drug Policy Commission

Both DrugScope and UKDPC have welcomed the high level outcomes specified in the 2010 Drug Strategy, and support a focus on outcomes in the commissioning and delivery of drug services. We note that there are different ways of developing ‘payment by results’ (including the activity-based tariffs that have been introduced in the NHS since 2003 and the ‘social bond’ approach at HMP Peterborough) and alternative ways to incentivise a focus on recovery outcomes (for example, the NTA is currently providing financial incentives for commissioners to increase the numbers of people successfully completing treatment, which does not constitute ‘payment by results’ as such but may achieve the same ends).

Developing PbR for drug recovery in a way that incentivises outcomes for treatment and recovery creates significant practical challenges for those managing the system and delivering services. The challenge of moving to a new system in the pilot areas is compounded by the fact that the introduction of Drug Recovery PbR would overlap (for example) with radical health service reforms, a new system for prison commissioning, the introduction of elected police commissioners and restricted budgets for local councils. In particular, there is a need to properly integrate a number of different PbR initiatives that will be dealing with overlapping client groups, including Drug Recovery PbR, the Work Programme, PbR for alcohol problems within the NHS and PbR in the criminal justice system.

Both DrugScope and UKDPC have expressed concerns about the practical challenges of developing Drug Recovery PbR pilots, particularly given the time constraints on the codesign process. In other areas of health and social care, PbR models have been developed over a period of several years (for example, PbR for mental health services has been in development for around seven years, with implementation of currencies for mental health. To learn more please follow this link

Source: UKDPC

Health Protection Agency: Injecting Drug Users

Injecting Drug Users are vulnerable to a diverse range of infectious and communicable diseases, including HIV, wound botulism, and hepatitis C, which can result in considerable morbidity and mortality. The surveillance of communicable diseases, and the associated risk and protective behaviours, among this group are important public health functions.

What's New: 28 July 2011: Data from Unlinked Anonymous Monitoring Survey of Injecting Drug Users for 2010. To learn more please follow this link

Source: HPA 

The dark side of prescription drugs 

Mention of drug addiction typically conjures up images of strung-out users of heroin or crack cocaine. But a growing number of Britons are dependent on legal drugs, prescribed by their doctors, with a grip as unforgiving as that of their illegal counterparts. It is a problem that cannot keep being ignored.

Despite the efforts of campaigners, the blight of addiction to prescription medicines – in particular opiate-based painkillers and benzodiazepine tranquillisers – remains low on the agenda and largely unexamined. What glimmers of statistical light there are, are increasingly disturbing. Opiate painkillers are being dispensed at five times the rate they were 20 years ago, for example, while deaths involving codeine doubled between 2005 and 2009 alone.

In part, the problem reflects patient demand. There is a growing battery of drugs to combat anxiety and chronic pain, and sufferers are unsurprisingly keen to make use of them. But there is a balance to be struck. Patients may not be aware of the potency of their medication until it is too late, while GPs too often boost doses far above recommended levels if patients' complaints continue. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Independent

15% of inmates 'had drugs in system' 

More than one in seven prisoners at a Victorian era jail had drugs in their system at any one time, a report has said. The illegal drugs market behind the walls of Pentonville Prison in north London "lies behind many of the gang, debt and violence issues throughout the prison", the jail's independent monitoring board (IMB) said.

Random tests showed 15% of its inmates had illegal drugs in their system at any time in 2010/11, with one in five being prescribed methadone maintenance. The independent monitors added there were also doubts over the effectiveness of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke's policy of using methadone in treating drug dependence and in reducing re-offending.

"The number of drug users coming into prison does not seem to be reducing," the report said. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Independent 

Consolidation and review of the misuse of drugs regulations 2001 

This consultation document seeks your comments on proposals to consolidate and review specific provisions under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 and on the accompanying impact assessment.

How to respond: When responding please state whether you are responding as an individual or whether you are representing the views of an organisation. If responding on behalf of an organisation, please make it clear who the organisation represents and, where applicable, how the views of members were assembled. The consultation will run for 12 weeks. The closing date for responses is 28 October 2011. 

Source: Home Office 


Facebook 'increases teenage drugs and alcohol abuse'

Teenagers who regularly use Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites are much more likely to drink, smoke and use marijuana, a study of 1,000 children indicates.

It found those who used such sites daily were five times more likely to smoke tobacco as those who did not, three times as likely to drink alcohol and twice as likely to use marijuana. 

The poll of 12 to 17-year-olds Americans, conducted by Columbia University, found 70 per cent of those interviewed said they used social networking sites on a typical day, while 30 per cent did not. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Telegraph

Drugs could cleanse brain of bad memories

Millions of people who suffer from post-traumatic stress after a harrowing experience could benefit from mind-altering drugs that can rid the brain of bad memories, a legal scholar has suggested. 

Yet the prospect of using drugs to dampen the memory of a distressing episode in someone's life is being thwarted by unfounded concerns about their misuse, according to Adam Kolber, professor of law at Brooklyn Law School in New York.

In a commentary published in the science journal Nature, Professor Kolber says there is a need for a more open attitude to the development and use of drugs that can alter memories, which many ethicists have opposed on the grounds that destroying memories risks altering peoples' personalities. To learn more please follow this links 

Source: The Independent

Be Afraid of Facebook, Be Very Afraid 

What are we to make of the rather official sounding "National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVI" from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA)? That Facebook causes kids to drink? That Twitter will drive your teens to smoke dope? That watching Jersey Shore will ensure Johnny illegally gets his hands on prescription drugs?

A board that is housed at Columbia University makes these and more outrageous claims. None other than former US Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano, Jr. heads this stellar staff of scientists and policy thinkers up.  What becomes painfully clear as you read through the findings is that they have taken correlations and suggested that American teens (aged 12 to 17) are at an increased risk of smoking, drinking and drug use if they spend any time on a social networking site. They've taken a statistical connection and made a direct correlation.

The LA Times equates it to the whacky claims of well-meaning health experts that ice cream might cause polio. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Huffington Post

Three Marijuana Legalization Initiatives in Oregon

Activists in Oregon are serious about legalizing marijuana. There are currently three different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns aimed at the November 2012 ballot underway there and, this year, there are signs the state's fractious marijuana community is going to try to overcome sectarian differences and unify so that the overarching goal -- freeing the weed -- can be attained.

The three initiatives are in varying stages of advancement, with one already engaged in signature-gathering, one just approved for a ballot title, and the third trying to obtain the 1,000 signatures necessary to be granted a ballot title and be approved for signature-gathering.

The initiative currently furthest down the path toward the ballot box, is the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012 (Initiative Petition #9), sponsored by veteran activist and medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford. It would allow adult Oregonians to possess and grow their own marijuana. It would allow Oregon farmers to grow hemp. And it would license Oregon farmers to grow marijuana to be sold at state-licensed pot stores. An earlier version of OCTA failed to make the ballot last year. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle

Michigan Marijuana Dispensaries Illegal, Appeals Court Rules 

Medical marijuana cannot be sold in dispensaries, the Michigan Court of Appeals held in an opinion released Wednesday. The ruling held that the state's 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law does not allow for medical marijuana to be sold, even among the nearly 100,000 people who have state-issued medical marijuana cards.

The 3-0 decision came in Michigan v. McQueen, in which local authorities had sought to shut down the Compassionate Apothecary in Mount Pleasant as a "public nuisance." The ruling means other communities can target the estimated 200 to 300 dispensaries now operating in the state.

"The 'medical use' of marijuana does not include patient-to-patient 'sales' of marijuana. Defendants, therefore, have no authority under the [law] to operate a marijuana dispensary that actively engages in and carries out patient-to-patient sales," said appeals court judges Joel Hoekstra, Christopher Murray and Cynthia Diane Stephens. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle 

Few Florida Welfare Applicants Fail Drug Tests So Far

During his election campaign last year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) campaigned on, among other things, cutting government spending by reducing the welfare rolls through drug testing. Welfare recipients were more likely than average citizens to be drug users, he claimed.

Scott successfully pushed his welfare drug testing bill through the legislature, and the program went into effect July 1. But preliminary results undercut his claims of high drug use rates among people seeking welfare benefits and they suggest that the vaunted savings to taxpayers will not be very significant

According to the Tampa Tribune, the state Department of Children and Families is reporting some preliminary numbers. So far, at least 1,000 applicants have undergone drug testing, and only 2% have failed their drug tests. Another 2% have, for reasons unknown, failed to complete the application process. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle 

DPA Coordinating Events for International Overdose Awareness Day (August 31) to Remember Lives Lost and to Educate About Solutions to Overdose Crisis 

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) will be joining dozens of organizations in the U.S. and abroad who are participating in International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31. The day honors and remembers those who have lost their lives to an overdose. The occasion is also an opportunity to educate policymakers and the public about the growing overdose crisis in the United States and abroad – and to offer concrete solutions that save lives.

Accidental drug overdoses have quadrupled since 1990 and now cause the death of more than 26,000 Americans every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drug overdose now ranks as a leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., second only to motor-vehicle accidents. Most overdose deaths in the United States are now attributed to prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone.

"The bad news is there is a real overdose crisis in the United States," said Meghan Ralston of the Drug Policy Alliance, "but the good news is there are easy solutions that can save thousands of lives. 'Good Samaritan' immunity laws that encourage people who are witnessing an overdose to call 911 without fear of arrest, and expanding access to naloxone – a low-cost drug that reverses overdoses within minutes – would both save lives immediately." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug Policy Alliance

Rhode Island Docs Tell Governor to Okay Marijuana Dispensaries

Dispensaries to serve medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island have been on hold since the spring, when, citing pressure from the federal government, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I), blocked them from moving forward. Now, the Rhode Island Medical Society has sent him a letter saying the time for delay is over.

A regulated system of dispensaries is crucial in providing "a source mechanism for patients to obtain their marijuana in a safe and legal manner," said society president Dr. Gary Bubly in the letter sent to Chafee and state Health Department Director Michael Fine.

"It requires appropriate security and oversight allowing patients to obtain their marijuana in a controlled environment," he wrote. "Further delay in implementing this law only serves to deny relief to patients suffering from the qualifying medical conditions." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle 

Second California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed

And then there were two. A group of Northern California attorneys, activists, and at least one prominent medical marijuana doctor Friday filed the text for a second marijuana legalization initiative aimed at the 2012 election in Sacramento Friday.

The 753-word initiative, the Repeal Cannabis Prohibition Act, simply does what the title suggests: It would repeal all sections of California law imposing criminal penalties for pot possession, cultivation, or distribution for adults. The state Department of Health would be charged with regulating public smoking and pot use by minors, which would remain illegal. Driving while impaired would still be illegal, and providing pot to a minor would result in a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Anyone possessing, growing or otherwise involved with less than three pounds of pot would face no taxes. The Department of Public Health would have 180 days to come up with regulations for cannabis commerce. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Drug War Chronicle


The first harm reduction website for people who use heroin and pervitin in Slovakia

On the occasion of "World Day against Drug Abuse and illicit Trafficking" Slovak harm reduction NGO Odyseus launched www.drogy.org. It is the first harm reduction site for people who use heroin and pervitin in Slovakia. The site aims to reduce the impact of drug use such as heroin and pervitin. There is low awareness about the use of these drugs in Slovakia. Website www.drogy.org is a space for people who use drugs, as a reaction to several trends.

 *The estimate that 50% of Slovakians who inject drugs live with hepatitis C. Most of these people contracted hepatitis C within one to two years of injecting. This can be prevented.

* The unavailability of disease prevention health materials regarding the use of heroin and pervitin. People who use drugs such as heroin and pervitin need specific disease prevention information. Without targeted information, people cannot effectively protect their health. The webpage includes information on injecting drug use, in addition to other routes of heroin and methamphetamine use. A significant part is devoted to health – HIV , hepatitis C, and overdose prevention. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: EHRN

Drugs problem in Finland still one of mildest in European Union 

Use of illegal drugs in Finland remains significantly lower than in many other European nations, claims the annual study by the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA), released on Thursday. The data provided for the EMCDDA study by the EU Member States and candidate countries and Norway was collected in 2004 and 2005.

According to the study, cocaine, for example, which is a cause of great concern in Europe, is rare in Finland. Only one per cent of the under 24-year-olds have used it, whereas in Britain and Spain the corresponding figure is at least five times higher. Only the consumption of amphetamine in Finland is around the European average. To learn more please follow this link


Mexico and the Americas

Ex-Mexico prez suggests truce with drug cartels 

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Former President Vicente Fox suggested Friday that Mexican authorities consider calling on drug cartels for a truce and offering them amnesty, speaking out a day after an apparent cartel attack on a casino killed 52 people. 

Fox, who served from 2000 to 2006, has since advocated legalizing drugs as a way to reduce violence. At least 35,000 and as many as 40,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against the cartels in late 2006. "I want to start a public debate on the following ideas ... call on the violent groups for a truce" and "evaluate the advisability of an amnesty law," Fox said in a speech at an anti-crime event. 

Last week, the attorney general of the violence-wracked southern state of Guerrero, Alberto Lopez Rosas, drew criticism when he called on cartels to establish a truce among themselves to prevent civilian casualties in their bloody turf battles. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Associated Press

Mexico casino arson attack shows violence is spreading 

Until recently, Monterrey was seen by the rest of Mexico as an oasis of prosperity and peace amid the violence of the country's drug wars. But this week's attack on a casino, in which at least 52 people died, was a reminder that nowhere is safe. The victims, mostly women, died after armed men set fire to the Casino Royale, which was filled with gamblers and staff, on Thursday. Rescue workers were continuing to search the remains of the two-storey building for bodies on Friday.

Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, declared three days of national mourning during a televised address in which he called on Mexicans to unite behind his government's controversial offensive against the drug cartels, which has coincided with a dramatic escalation of violence around the country. "We are confronting true terrorists," Calderón said. "We have to combat them with more force. They cannot be the owners of our streets, our cities and our future."

He also laid part of the blame for what he called "the tragedy we are living in Mexico" on the failure of the US to control its drug consumption and prevent Mexican cartels from easily replenishing their arsenals across the border. "We are neighbours, we are allies and we are friends – but you are also responsible," the visibly angry president said. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Guardian

More than 50 dead in casino arson as Mexico drug violence spreads 

The northern Mexican city of Monterrey, once a model of industrial prosperity and relatively insulated from the drugs war that has gripped the country for five years, was reeling yesterday after gang members set fire to a two-storey casino in the city's centre killing at least 50 people trapped inside. 

Witnesses said that the carnage at the Casino Royale began at roughly 4 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, a relatively quiet time for business at the cards tables and in its bingo salons, when gunmen stormed in shouting for people to leave before they began dousing the facility with what appeared to be gasoline. Instead of heading for the exits, many terrified patrons and casino employees rushed further into the facility only to be trapped when the bandits ignited the liquid. The governor of the state of Nueva Leon, Rodrigo Medina, said on television that the death toll had reached at least 53 and many more had suffered injuries.

The rescue teams retrieving charred bodies found many crammed into the facility's toilets. Pandemonium erupted outside as relatives of those thought to be inside begged for information on missing loved ones with, at first, little information from the authorities. The attack was confirmation that Monterrey, which lies 100 miles south of the border with the Texas in northeast Mexico, has now joined the scores of other parts of the country where safety from the drugs wars can no longer be guaranteed. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Independent

Mexico's Calderon berates U.S. after casino attack 

(Reuters) - President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning on Friday and demanded a crackdown on drugs in the United States after armed men torched a casino in northern Mexico, killing at least 52 people.

Under intense pressure as violence soars, Calderon said he would send more federal security forces to the city of Monterrey, where gunmen set fire to an upmarket casino on Thursday in one of the worst attacks of Mexico's drugs war. Lashing out at corrupt officials in Mexico and "insatiable" U.S. demand for drugs for fomenting the violence, Calderon urged Congress to stamp out drug consumption and stop illegal trafficking of weapons across the border into Mexico.

"We're neighbors, we're allies, we're friends, but you are also responsible," a somber and angry Calderon said to the United States in a speech after meeting his security advisers. Pledging to step up the fight on organized crime, Calderon said Mexico was under attack from "true terrorists", and told all Mexicans to come forward and denounce those responsible. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Reuters

Mexican drug traffickers taunt police with body parts in Acapulco

Suspected traffickers in Mexico killed and mutilated a man, then left his body parts around Acapulco in a macabre taunt to authorities in the resort city that has become plagued by drug violence.  Police in the port city on Tuesday received reports of an "abandoned human head" on a busy street. Officers answering the call also found a human torso stuffed into a bag, the police force said on its website. 

Later, the deceased's legs and feet were discovered hanging from a downtown bridge, with a message from the alleged perpetrators to authorities. Finally, on another bridge on the road to Mexico City north of Acapulco, police found the victim's hands, bearing a note to state and local governments.

The messages "appeared to be put up at the same time, and had the same lettering," according to the police report. Acapulco is one of the tourist destinations most visited by Mexicans, but since 2010 it increasingly has been gripped by violence as warring drug cartels battle for control of criminal activities, mainly trafficking. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Telegraph

Security in Mexico: Raising the stakes 

A CASINO in the troubled northern city of Monterrey was set alight yesterday afternoon, in an attack that officials say killed 40 people. Some reports said that armed men had burst in and doused the Casino Royale with flammable liquid. Others said the men had thrown grenades. At the time of writing some people were reportedly still trapped inside. 

Some 40,000 people have been killed so far in Mexico’s heightened drug war, which is nearing five years old. In spite of the violence, Mexico’s economy has been doingreasonably well. Though the border with the United States has seen the worst of the fighting, trade between the two countries is at an all-time high. Crucial to keeping the investment and visitors flowing is the fact that the violence has been highly concentrated—most of the murders taking place in a handful of municipalities—and that most of the victims, we are told (without hard evidence, mind you) are people who are themselves involved in organised crime. 

That is why yesterday’s casino attack presents three worries. Firstly, it did not take place in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night: the Casino Royale is on one of Monterrey’s main highways, close to the centre, with several well-known hotel chains within a few blocks. Chasing Los Zetas and co. around the desert is one thing; failing to keep order in the middle of one of Mexico’s richest cities, at four in the afternoon, is a more serious problem, and one that will cause people to raise the dreaded F-word again. (For what it’s worth, I still don’t think Mexico as a whole is anywhere near meeting that description. But a handful of its 31 states are perilously close.) To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Economist

Mexico’s economy: The cartel problem 

A COUPLE of decades ago, when businesspeople and investors first got excited about the growth prospects of large emerging markets, Mexico was at the top of their lists. Nowadays it is the BRIC countries—Brazil, Russia, India and China—that have all the swagger, while Mexico commands attention for a sad reason: the surge of drug-fuelled violence that assails some of its cities. Mexican envy at the hoop-la surrounding Brazil, its Latin American rival, has reached a pitch to which only a psychoanalyst could do full justice. 

Look more closely, however, and Mexico has hidden strengths. Its people are richer than those of any of the BRICs except Russia. They are better educated than Brazilians. The economy is more industrialised, better managed and more business-friendly than Brazil’s. And although growth has not been spectacular over the past 15 years, it has been significant. 

For reasons of geography Mexico’s fate is ineluctably intertwined with that of the United States. This now looks less of an advantage than it once did (and not just because it is Americans who arm and finance the Mexican drug gangs). In 2009 Mexico’s was hit worse than any other big economy in the Americas by the recession in the United States. Renewed weakness north of the border this month has prompted economists to slash their forecasts for Mexico as well. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Economist

Crime in Trinidad: Taking on the gangs 

STREET life in St James, a suburb of Port of Spain, Trinidad’s capital, that likes to call itself the “city that never sleeps”, normally blasts on until the early hours. But now all is deathly quiet. Customers and staff scuttle home early to beat a 9pm curfew that started on August 21st in Port of Spain and three other towns as part of a nationwide state of emergency imposed by Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar. 

The aim of the emergency, which grants special powers to the police and army, is to try to break the island’s violent criminal gangs. Most Trinidadians support the measure. “Long overdue”, says Ken Gordon, a businessman who chaired a crime task-force for a former government. The four days preceding the announcement saw 11 killings, in a country of just 1.3m people. The murder rate last year was 36 per 100,000, around seven times that in the United States. Recent drug busts raised fears of more deadly turf battles.

Jamaica, with a worse gang problem, imposed a similar emergency for two months from May 2010. Gunmen in the capital, Kingston, had attacked police stations in support of their leader, Christopher “Dudus” Coke, who was wanted in the United States on drug charges. Police and troops stormed his Tivoli Gardens stronghold, leading to 73 civilian deaths. Mr Coke was arrested a month later, and now awaits trial in New York. A bevy of suspected criminals was detained. The murder rate fell by more than 40%, and has stayed down. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: The Economist

Colombia Takes Step Towards Drug Decriminalization 

Colombia's Supreme Court ruled against harsh punishments for small-time drug offenders, in a move towards easing up Colombia's zero-tolerance drug laws, which have achieved little in the fight against organized crime. 

The court ruling, issued Wednesday, goes against a legal decree which essentially prohibited drug possession and consumption in Colombia. After the Constitutional Court ruled in 1994 that users can keep small doses of drugs for personal consumption, the administration of President Alvaro Uribe tried five times to reverse the decision, finally succeeding with the passing of a constitutional amendment in December 2009. 

This amendment nullified a previous law which allowed adults to legally possess 20 grams of marijuana, one gram of cocaine and two grams of synthetic drugs for consumption in their own homes. Under the terms of the reform, users arrested with less than 1,000 grams of marijuana and 100 grams of cocaine could face prison terms from 64 to 108 months. This essentially meant that anyone caught with drugs in Colombia could go to prison. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: In Sight 

Costa Rica 'faces threat of drug gangs' 

Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla says increased international help is vital to tackle the drug cartels operating in Central America. President Chinchilla told BBC Mundo that Mexican gangs were present in her country, working with local cartels. 

Ms Chinchilla was speaking during a visit to Mexico focused on boosting co-operation against organised crime. Mexican gangs are increasingly using Central America as a transit route for South American cocaine. 

President Chinchilla said that Costa Rica remained one of the safest countries in Latin America, but that in recent years insecurity had become a growing issue. "It's a problem that will get out of hand if we don't confront it now," she told the BBC during an interview in Mexico City. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: BBC News 


Krokodil and the Terrible Cost of the War on Drugs

Burt Likko points us to the horrifying story of a new synthetic drug in Russia known as Krokodil. With heroin supplies running extremely low thanks to the efforts to quash exports out of Afghanistan, Russian chemists have developed the new drug made from household items like codeine, which is available over the counter in Russia. The new homemade drug has filled the demand left by the shortage in heroin, with truly terrifying results

‘Desmorphine, a synthetic with similar effects of heroin made from house-held chemicals like codeine (available over the counter in Russia), iodine, lighter fluid, gasoline, and industrial cleaning oil, is street-named Krokodil for the way it literally devours its users (like the mean crocodile). Injection sites turn flesh grey, green and scaly until gangrene skin peels away and bone is exposed; it can lead to amputated limbs.

Photographs of addicts are shocking, to say the least. Exposed bone from wrist to elbow, arms look more like the half-devoured limbs of a zombie than a living human …  Once users have compiled enough codeine, lighter fluid, industrial cleaning product, and iodine, the thirty-minute cooking process creates enough Krokodil for about a 90-minute high. Most addicts thus spend all their time cooking and shooting, cooking and shooting, until enough skin falls away that they die.’ To learn more please follow this link

Source: Forbes 

United Nations 

Death for 50 rupees: Misuse of prescription drugs in South Asia 

25 August 2011 - "I smoked heroin for a long, long time but for two years now, I only inject. It's cheaper and somehow the same," said Darminder, his clothes and body marked by a life on the street, his eyes sad and tired from years of constant pharmaceutical drug abuse. A few hours later the 17-year-old boy was dead. In an argument about money for more drugs he was beaten and left to die in a dirty alley. 

"Death for 50 rupees" is the title of freelance photographer Enrico Fabian's latest photographic series. His stark black and white photographs from Jahangirpuri, a settlement in New Delhi, India, stand witness to a grim reality - the growing use of narcotic and psychotropic prescription drugs by injecting drug users. Intended for use in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, pharmaceutical drugs may be procured over-the-counter without any restrictions or with a physician's prescription. Some narcotic and psychotropic prescription drugs, for example opiate pain killers such as morphine and some anti-cancer drugs, are under stricter regulatory controls. 

Enrico's photographs, however show the devastating effects of prescription drug misuse. During the 11 months he spent interacting with injecting drug users in the Jahangirpuri settlement, he saw a number of young boys and men whose lives have been destroyed by the injection of prescription drugs - due to their easy availability from nearby pharmacies. "Purchasing these drugs is as easy as buying cough syrup at the supermarket," says Enrico. "The medicine - which shouldn't be given to anyone without a doctor's prescription - is sold at a price even the poor can afford. Vials of Buprenorphine, usually used to treat opioid addiction, Diazepam, also known as Valium, Avil and two disposable syringes can be bought for 50 rupees, a little less than US$ 1. Depending on the customer's relationship with the pharmacist, an additional strong antidepressant tablet or extra morphine may be handed out for free." To learn more please follow this link 

Source: UNODC 

UNODC and UNHABITAT release guidelines to help prevent crime in urban areas 

20 August 2011 - A 2010 UNODC report onglobal homicide trends showed that there are stable or decreasing global homicide trends over the period 2003-2008 for the majority of countries for which data is available in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. While high-income cities have succeeded in controlling crime through the use of innovative techniques, low- and middle- level income countries particularly in Africa and Central America still grapple with the challenges. Urban governments in low- and middle-income countries have increasingly sought to apply the techniques in new contexts, with growing success. 

Under the Safer Cities Program, UNODC and UNHABITAT have issued a handbook to help prevent crime in cities and towns. The handbook, entitled Introductory Handbook on Policing Urban Space provides practitioners, including government officials, police, municipal planners and members of civic groups with strategies and good governance practices to help control crime in rapidly growing cities in low- and middle-income countries. 

Among the best practices highlighted in the handbook are: state officials must establish links between police and other state institutions in order to effectively incorporate security concerns into wider government efforts; city planners should contribute to discussions about security and develop relations with police; and collaboration between urban planners, civil society, government officials, police and communities is essential in combating crime. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: UNODC 

Global Fund Round 11 - Information Note on Harm Reduction 

On Monday August 15th, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria launched a call for proposals for its 11th round of funding, with the deadline for applications set for December 15th 2011. There are many important new features for Round 11, including: 

Two funding streams for applicants to choose from: a ‘General Funding Pool’, and a ‘Targeted Funding Pool’ for proposals that focus on most-at-risk populations. New rules around eligibility and the need to demonstrate “counterpart financing” (whereby a share of the program costs are covered from domestic sources). Improved proposal forms and guidance to help applicants. 

In the eligible countries, the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) should now be deciding whether or not to apply, and what to include in their proposals. Each CCM must do this through an open process, and includes representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, and people living with the diseases. You can find the contact details for your local CCM through the relevant country profile page on http://portfolio.theglobalfund.org. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: HRI 


Few Treatment Options for Afghans as Drug Use Rises 

KABUL, Afghanistan — Once a river flowed under the low Pul-i-Sokhta bridge here, but now the thin stream is clotted with garbage, the banks are piled with refuse and crowds of heroin and opiumaddicts huddle in the shadows, some hanging like moths near the bridge’s supports, then slumping in the haze of narcotic smoke. 

When outsiders venture in, dozens of the addicts — there are 200 or 300 here on any given day — drift over to see the newcomers. Most of the visitors are health care workers trying to persuade the addicts to visit their clinic for a shower and a medical screening.“Are you taking names for treatment?” one man asks, his soiled salwar kameez hanging loosely around his thin body. “Put me down, my name is Zainullah.” 

This is another of Afghanistan’s afflictions: a growing drug addiction problem and all the ills that come with that, not least H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS, which can be transmitted when addicts share needles. There were about 900,000 drug users in Afghanistan in 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, a marked increase from previous years. That means about 7 percent of the adult population of 14 million is using narcotics. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: New York Times 

PAKISTAN: Women’s secret drug-taking hurting families 

LAHORE, 23 May 2011 (IRIN) - Late each night, Rizwana Bibi* opens the metal box she keeps under her bed to check on her stash of drugs and pops a pill so she can catch some sleep. “I began soon after I was married, because I was so unhappy,” she said. “My husband is violent. I keep the drug use a secret from him and our three children, though my nine-year-old son sometimes goes to the pharmacy to buy the `medicines’ I ask him to get. 

“I tell him they are to help my headaches,” Rizwana told IRIN in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city and capital of Punjab Province. The 30-year-old mother has been using benzodiazepines (a class of compounds used as tranquillizers) and narcotics for the last 10 years. Like her, thousands of married Pakistanis of reproductive age are addicted to drugs, a problem that has taken a serious toll on families, according to Uzma Ahmed, a health visitor who offers advice to women in a community on the outskirts of Lahore. 

“There are women I know who use drugs,” Ahmed said. “Often they are terrified their husbands will beat them if they find out. The drug use has a highly negative impact on families, especially the children who sometimes see their mothers smoke, or swallow pills and fall asleep for hours. Some want to give up, but where do they go for help?”  To learn more please follow this link 

Source: IRIN: Humanitarian News and Analysis 

Joint press statement on worrying Nepal situation 

This press statement from Networks of People Who Use Drugs call on the Nepalese government and its development partners to review, readjust and redesign cost-effective and high-quality harm reduction interventions. This press release follows a cut in international funding, leading to serious concerns regarding the escalating public health crisis in Nepal. Read more. Press-release-Nepal-DUs.pdf 

Source: IDPC 

AC, ANPUD, APN+ call on ICAAP to provide methadone in Korea 

19 August 2011, from Asian Harm Reducion Network. Asia Catalyst and 25 other regional networks and organizations called this week for methadone and buprenorphine access at the International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific, to take place this month in Busan, Korea. 

Lack of access to these key medications in effect creates a discriminatory barrier to participation in the congress by delegates who are people using drugs. 

Please help us to circulate the letter and to raise these issues with conference conveners and the Korean government, both before and at ICAAP. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: IDPC 

ICAAP10 : Korean activists arrested and threatened with criminal action for peaceful protest against FTAs 

Busan – South Korea – Press Statement – Saturday 27th August 2011: Police beat and arrested South Korean activists, among them people living with HIV/AIDS, during a PEACEFUL march at the ICAAP in Busan. The march was organised to protest against Free Trade Agreements being negotiated across the Asia Pacific region. International and Korean activists were jointly marching through the Conference Convention Center. Even though the protest was not disrupting any activities of ICAAP, plainclothed government security staff considered the activists as a threat and arrested them. 

Some of the activists were badly hurt while stopping the police arresting their colleagues. At least three activists have been hospitalised and according to reports, the police have shown up at the hospital and threatened them with criminal charges. A woman activist, a lawyer working on human rights was taken away by force in a police car despite the best efforts of activists to prevent the arrest. Repeated questions as to why the activists were being arrested went unanswered. 

After her release, Suh Yeon Chang, a lawyer working with the Korean Public Interest Lawyers Group GON G-GAM, stated that the police did not inform her of the reason for the arrest, which is illegal according to the South Korean criminal law. Even after reaching the police station, Chang says, the police were unable to inform her of the reason for the arrest. Nor was any legal form about the arrest from the scene made available, another requirement of Korean criminal law. Korean activists noted that this was unfortunately standard practice. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Asian Harm Reduction Network 

Vietnam, Laos, Thailand strengthen ties in combating drugs 

QUANG TRI – Co-operation in combating the drug trade along the East-west Economic Corridor topped discussions between Viet Nam, Laos and Thailand at a conference which opened in central Quang Tri Province today. Participants put forward recommendations and shared experiences in fighting against drug trafficking across the borders. 

Chief of the Ministry of Public Securities’ Standing Office for the Fight Against Drugs Nguyen Kien said the workshop confirmed a strong commitment from the three governments to co-operate in combating drugs in general and along the east-west economic corridor in particular. The event would contribute to creating a new step between the three countries in controlling drugs and proposing measures to improve their co-operation effectiveness in fighting against narcotics and other kinds of crimes along the corridor, he said. 

The drug situation had become complicated in the central regions and provinces of the corridor in Viet Nam where many transnational drug rings were now operating, Kien said. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Asian Harm Reduction Network 

Africa and the Middle East 

SOUTH AFRICA: Shortage of drug-resistant TB treatment looms 

JOHANNESBURG, 16 August 2011 (PlusNews) - While countries are rolling out new tests that will enable them to diagnose more patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), a worldwide shortage of the drugs to treat these patients is likely, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns. 

DR-TB can occur when TB patients do not complete their initial course of TB treatment. The only way to test for DR-TB is through cultures or via molecular testing – neither of which has been widely available in many high incident countries – until the advent of the GeneXpert, a two-hour molecular TB test released in 2010. 

South Africa, which has the world’s fifth-largest burden of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB cases, will replace all microscope-based TB diagnoses with faster, more sensitive GeneXpert testing within two years, making it the world’s largest user of the machine, according to Norbert Ndjeka, director of DR-TB, TB and HIV at the South African National Department of Health. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: IRIN: Humanitarian News and Analysis 

EGYPT: Taking on the hepatitis C virus/correction* 

CAIRO, 28 July 2011 (IRIN) - Egypt has stepped up efforts to curb the hepatitis C virus (HCV) by opening treatment centres, offering free drugs to the poor, and launching a massive public awareness campaign, say officials.

“We managed to dedicate more money for the treatment of the virus this year,” said Waheed Doss, chairman of the National Anti-Virus C Campaign, a state-run effort to fight the disease. “We managed to give free treatment to 140,000 patients last year alone,” he told IRIN.

Egypt has a very high prevalence of chronic diseases including liver infections, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, according to theWorld Health Organization (WHO), and it also has higher infection rates for invasive medical, dental, or paramedical procedures, the agency says, than neighbouring and many other countries with comparable socio-economic conditions and hygiene standards. 

Source: IRIN: Humanitarian News and Analysis 

The Caribbean 

Trinidad and Tobago Declares Emergency Over Drug Crimes 

MEXICO CITY — The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago has imposed a nightly curfew and sent troops to cope with a rash of violent crime associated with gangs, one of the starkest signs of worry in the Caribbean region over a spike in drug trafficking. 

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in a nationally televised address on Sunday night, announced what she called a “limited” state of emergency. It includes a 9 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew in major cities and towns and broader powers for the police to make searches and issue arrests, with 5,000 members of the military assisting them. Her speech followed a weekend of mayhem that left 11 people dead.

The measures have slowed the pace of drug-related killings and led to the arrest of 58 gang leaders, the foreign minister, Surujrattan Rambachan, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “It’s a limited intervention to deal with gangs and get guns off the streets,” he said. He added that after about two weeks, the state of emergency could be extended for 90 days with approval from Parliament. To learn more please follow this link

Source: Asian Harm Reduction Network

Also in the News

Avoiding Fatal Opiate Overdose

Shortly after Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home in July, the media began speculating that a drug overdose was the likely culprit. The singer-songwriter’s struggles with drug use, particularly heroin, were well known and the media lost no time in making up its mind (incidentally, just this week, the results of a toxicology report showed that there were no illegal drugs in Winehouse’s system at the time of her death). But while the media was reporting on the dangers of drug overdose, a second, equally important story failed to make headlines: death from opiate overdose is easily avoidable with access to the lifesaving medicine, naloxone. 

August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day and an opportunity to raise awareness about drug use and harm reduction alternatives. Worldwide, between 12 and 21 million people use opiates for a variety of reasons. Many are prescribed opiates for pain or addiction. Others take them illicitly to deal with pain, because they have a habit, or because they want to get high. All are at risk of experiencing overdose—a leading cause of death among regular opiate users. 

In the United States, opiate overdose is the second leading cause of accidental death, and in the European Union, the equivalent of one fatal overdose occurs every hour.  Although data in many other countries is incomplete, surveys among drug users in places like Russia and Vietnam reveal that nearly all drug users have at one time witnessed a fatal overdose, and over a third have overdosed themselves.

These number suggest that many of us know someone who has experienced an overdose—whether they’ve told us about it or not—including friends or family members.  What most people don’t know—and what's rarely reported when a high-profile drug overdose (or in this case, a "suspected" drug overdose) makes the news—is information on naloxone. To learn more please follow this link 

Source: Open Society 

International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies - A global call for doctors interested in drug policy 

The purpose of International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies (IDHDP) is to increase the participation of medical doctors in drug policy reform. There is a gap between evidence based practice and drug policy in many countries and IDHDP aims to influence changes in drug policy to promote harm reduction and create healthy drug policies internationally. 

IDHDP believes that doctors are in a strong position to help to achieve this. IDHDP also offers support to doctors in their home countries or regions by having core objectives/position statements, which promote harm reduction and healthy drug policies.

If you are a doctor, and agree with IDHDP's mission and objectives, please become a member by completing the membership form on the IDHDP website and add the issues that you would like to be addressed by IDHDP. 

Source: IDPC

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData