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oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of January 24th 2011

We lead this week's report with news of the disquieting appointment to the ACMD of Dr Raabe, an anti-harm reduction proponent with disturbing views on homosexuality. The Government have traditionally ignored the medical and scientific evidence on this key issue of social policy, and such an appointment will serve only to further a general lack of confidence in its ability to make informed evidential decisions ~ MW & CS
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
24 January 2011

Another ACMD member threatens to quit

The "Just Say No" drugs lobby will be much cheered, I suspect, by the appointment of Dr Hans-Christian Raabe to the ACMD. He has long argued that the committee has been dominated by "groups and organisations that promote 'liberal' drug policy or may even support the legalisation of drugs".

However, at least one member of the council is so incensed by the appointment that he is considering resigning. The Home Office, which prompted seven resignations when it sacked ACMD chair Professor David Nutt, might find itself facing yet more as it tries to replace those who have gone.

Dr Raabe could certainly not be dismissed as soft on the issue of drugs. He has argued that "it is futile to pursue discredited policies of so-called 'harm-reduction' and vital that the government and the nation are totally committed to the ideal of a drug-free society." But it is his less his views on narcotics and more his opinions on homosexuality that are causing fury.

In 2009 he stood as MEP candidate in the North West region for the Christian Party/Christian Peoples Alliance Party and is a leading light in the Manchester-based Maranatha Community which is dedicated to "re-establishing Christian values in society". It is an organisation with very strong anti-gay views and has briefed MPs against measures for homosexual rights.

A few years ago Dr Raabe helped write a pamphlet entitled A Warning Cry to the People of Great Britain in which the Maranatha Community warned that drug problems were part of a "morally self-destructive society". He has also urged health officials to consider drug-prevention schemes that involve spirituality. The Maranatha's approach is at odds with much current policy. It argues that "harm-reduction accommodates and normalises, rather than prevents, drug misuse." To learn more please follow this link

Source: Mark Easton at BBC News

The costs of drug prohibition: Let them chew coca

LOOKED at in one way, Mexico’s drug warriors have cause for satisfaction. Over the past year or so its security forces have captured or killed 20 of the three dozen leaders of the cartels which dominate the business of supplying cocaine to the many Americans who like to consume it. The latest to fall was a founder of the Zetas, a particularly vicious mob, arrested this week. Until recently the drug barons could rely on tip-offs from corrupt police commanders, which is why they were able to turn parts of northern Mexico into private fiefs. Nowadays when the United States passes on real-time intelligence on the mobsters, the Mexicans—frequently marines, but sometimes even the federal police—tend to nab their man.

That counts as progress. But it has come at a fearsome cost. Taking out the capos unleashes bloody turf wars. With over 15,000 killed, 2010 was by far the bloodiest year in Mexico since Felipe Calderón took office as president in December 2006 and launched his crackdown on the drug gangs. Officials argue that the death toll has begun to fall, that nearly all of the dead are gangsters, and that the killings are confined to a few hot spots. But it is too early to conclude that the fall marks a turning-point. And the government’s critics point out that a worrying number of the victims have been innocent bystanders. As the violence spreads to previously calm areas, the average Mexican feels less safe. Public support for Mr Calderón’s crusade is flagging and the gains he has made may yet be lost. To learn more, please follow this link

Source: The Economist

Take Home Naloxone – The Right to Survive Overdoses

This short film is not simply about commemorating those who have passed, nor shaming or blaming. It highlights the fact that deaths due to overdose are preventable using cheap and effective methods that do not stigmatize or criminalize people who use drugs. We focus on a pragmatic harm reduction tool that can prevent lethal overdoses: Naloxone distribution.

Naloxone has been shown to be useful in the reversal of central nervous system depression induced by overdoses of opioid drugs such as heroin. This means that if you provide access to this medicine for injecting drug users and train them how to use it, you can prevent a significant proportion of otherwise non-preventable deaths in this community. So why are there so few cities where Naloxone distribution and overdose prevention trainings are readily available to drug users?

We hope this movie will convince and mobilize professionals, activists and politicians to get rid of the prejudices and remove the barriers from Naloxone distribution.

Source: Drug Reporter

UNODC warns that high opium prices may reverse the gains of recent years

Soaring opium prices may induce more farmers to grow opium, warned the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its full 2010 Afghanistan Opium Survey released today.  The high prices are based on speculation arising from an opium blight that halved production in 2010 and from ongoing military operations, which are creating uncertainty among opium farmers regarding future cultivation.

"There is cause for concern. The market responded to the steep drop in opium production with an equally dramatic jump in the market price to more than double 2009 levels", said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC.

"We cannot continue business as usual", stressed the Executive Director noting that after a steady decline from 2005 to 2009, prices are rising again. "If this cash bonanza lasts, it could effectively reverse the hard-won gains of recent years".

Please click on the following link to read the report (pdf)

Source: UNODC

The Ibogaine Session

The 2008 International Harm Reduction Conference in Barcelona hosted a ‘User’s Choice’ session on Ibogaine, supported by INPUD. The HCLU filmed and edited the whole session, and you can watch it in four parts. Although filmed some time ago, the issues are still relevant and important.

While ibogaine's prohibition has slowed scientific research into ibogaine's anti-addictive properties, the use of ibogaine for drug treatment has grown in the form of a large worldwide medical subculture. Ibogaine is now used by treatment clinics in 12 countries on 6 continents to treat addictions to heroin, alcohol, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, and methamphetamine as well as to facilitate psychological introspection and spiritual exploration.

The first presenter at the Conference was Howard Lotsof, who discovered the anti-addictive effects of ibogaine in 1962 spoke on the historical and future perspectives of ibogaine treatment. You can watch his full length presentation below. To watch the complete session please follow this link

Source: Drug Reporter

EHRN activity report – 'Reducing harm - for health and human rights'

Since the founding of the Eurasian Harm Reduction Network (EHRN) more than a decade ago, there were significant developments both in the health and rights issues faced by people who use drugs. EHRN has issued a briefing “Reducing harm - for health and human rights” which outlines some of the Network’s achievements and its plans for 2010-2014.

In the report you will find detailed information on EHRN membership and governance, list of recent EHRN reports, as well as examples of impact of EHRN at national and global levels. Since 2009 the mission of EHRN is to promote humane, evidence-based harm-reduction approaches to drug use, with the aim of improving health and protecting human rights at the individual, community and societal level.

The report also gives an overview of the new EHRN Strategic Plan for 2010–2014, which builds on recent achievements and seeks to further develop the Network. The primary goal is to advocate for non-discriminatory, harm reduction-oriented drug policies in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and to improve and expand the use of evidence-based services for people who use drugs.

Download “Reducing harm - for health and human rights” in English 

Source: EHRN

EU drugs agency launches new guidelines for HIV testing in injecting drug users

More injecting drug users should undergo tests for HIV, viral hepatitis and other infections such as tuberculosis, says the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA). In new guidelines the agency describes how, in this group, the uptake of testing is still low in many European countries.

Infectious diseases are among the most serious health consequences of injecting drug use and can lead to significant healthcare costs. The new guidelines recommend a strategy to increase testing uptake, both in Europe and beyond, that would ensure earlier treatment for injecting drug users (IDUs) and would lower the risk of infection spreading to the wider population.

IDUs are vulnerable to a range of infectious diseases due to a variety of risk behaviours and underlying conditions, such as poor hygiene, homelessness and poverty. The EMCDDA estimates that 30–50% of HIV positive IDUs in Europe are unaware of being infected. It also estimates that around 50% of IDUs (varying between countries from 10% to 90%) are infected with viral hepatitis (notably hepatitis C), which can lead to severe liver disease and premature death 

To learn more about the new guidelines, please follow this link

Source: EMCDDA

Mexico's Ex-President Vicente Fox: Legalize Drugs

As Mexico drowns in drug-related bloodshed — suffering almost 12,000 murders in 2010 — it is perhaps unsurprising that government critics have turned up their screaming that the war on drugs isn't working. But it was a bit of a bombshell when former President Vicente Fox added his voice to the chorus. The cowboy-boot-wearing leader, who ruled Mexico from 2000 to 2006, once declared the "mother of all battles" against crime and rounded up drug kingpins. But before he left office, he witnessed the first big spike in violence as the narcos retaliated.

Last August, evidence surfaced that his vision had changed when he wrote on his blog that prohibition wasn't working. Now, in an interview with TIME in his hometown in central Mexico, he says his views have indeed moved toward the other end of the spectrum: favoring full-on legalization of the production, transit and sale of prohibited drugs. Fox is most explicit about marijuana but says the principle applies to all illegal drugs.

"Prohibition didn't work in the Garden of Eden. Adam ate the apple," says Fox, 68. "We have to take all the production chain out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of producers — so there are farmers that produce marijuana and manufacturers that process it and distributors that distribute it and shops that sell it. I don't want to say legalizing means drugs are good. They are bad for your health, and you shouldn't take them. But ultimately, this responsibility is with citizens." To learn more about Fox’s stance, please follow this link

Source: Time

Narcocorridos: Singing Songs of Drug Violence

In America, a growing culture of music and movies glorifies Mexico's drug violence, with drug lords even demanding made-for-order songs from well-known musicians.

Source: Time

Buprenorphine Implants for Treatment of Opioid Dependence

Below are the key findings from a recent study into Buprenorphine implants for the treatment of Opioid dependence:

Context: Limitations of existing pharmacological treatments for opioid dependence include low adherence, medication diversion, and emergence of withdrawal symptoms

Objective: To determine the efficacy of buprenorphine implants that provide a low, steady level of buprenorphine over 6 months for the treatment of opioid dependence

Design, Setting, and Participants: A randomized, placebo-controlled, 6-month trial conducted at 18 sites in the United States between April 2007 and June 2008. One hundred sixty-three adults, aged 18 to 65 years, diagnosed with opioid dependence. One hundred eight were randomized to receive buprenorphine implants and 55 to receive placebo implants

Intervention: After induction with sublingual buprenorphine-naloxone tablets, patients received either 4 buprenorphine implants (80 mg per implant) or 4 placebo implants. A fifth implant was available if a threshold for rescue use of sublingual buprenorphine-naloxone treatment was exceeded. Standardized individual drug counseling was provided to all patients

Main Outcome Measure: The percentage of urine samples negative for illicit opioids for weeks 1 through 16 and for weeks 17 through 24.

Results:

  • The buprenorphine implant group had significantly more urine samples negative for illicit opioids during weeks 1 through 16
  • Patients with implants had a mean percentage of urine samples that tested negative for illicit opioids across weeks 1 through 16 of 40.4% and a median of 40.7%; whereas those in the placebo group had a mean of 28.3% and a median of 20.8%. A total 65.7% who received implants completed the study vs 17 of 55 (30.9%) who received placebo implants
  • Those who received implants also had fewer clinician-rated and patient-rated withdrawal symptoms, had lower patient ratings of craving, and experienced a greater change on clinician global ratings of severity of opioid dependence and on the clinician global ratings of improvement than those who received placebo implants
  • Minor implant site reactions were the most common adverse events: (56.5%) in the buprenorphine group and (52.7%) in the placebo group

Conclusion Among persons with opioid dependence, the use of buprenorphine implants compared with placebo resulted in less opioid use over 16 weeks as assessed by urine samples.

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association

UK-Bolivia agreement on drugs

Drugs minister James Brokenshire has made a formal agreement on behalf of the UK to work more closely with Bolivia on counter-narcotics work. A Memorandum of Understanding - signed by Mr. Brokenshire and Bolivian foreign minister David Choquehuanca - will see more expertise sharing on aspects of drug trafficking.

This includes work to tackle money and assets laundering. Bolivia is thought to be the world's third largest cocaine producer. Mr Brokenshire said: 'The UK and Bolivia already have a strong working relationship. It's clear that by working together we are best placed to protect our citizens from the menace of illegal narcotics. This Memo of Understanding will deepen our ties across a range of areas and I look forward to seeing positive results.'

The UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency and the Bolivian Anti-Narcotics Force already exchange information about criminal organisations. Meanwhile, a UK-donated drugs-testing laboratory in Bolivia is now fully functioning and is used to test samples from seizures.

Source: Home Office

Welfare Drug Testing Bills Introduced in Four States 

Critics of welfare drug testing cite unconstitutionality of warrantless drug testing, the cost of drug testing tens or hundreds of thousands of people, counterproductive results and mean-spiritedness in opposing legislation that would require it. But that hasn't stopped legislators from coming back again and again.

With this year's state legislative season barely under way, bills have been introduced in four states -- Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oregon -- to require drug testing for people receiving public assistance. And in a novel twist, a bill in Indiana would require unemployment recipients to declare they are not using illegal drugs and threatens them with up to three years in prison for perjury if they are found to be using them.

But while such bills may be popular with politicians of a certain stripe, they don't find much support among professionals in the field.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which successfully litigated against Michigan's welfare drug testing law, has come down strongly against welfare drug testing. Such laws are "scientifically, fiscally, and constitutionally unsound," the ACLU's says. The group cites studies showing welfare recipients are no more likely to use drugs than the rest of the population and 70% of illicit drug users are employed. It also cites research showing that testing is an expensive ineffective way to uncover drug abuse.

But the kicker for the ACLU is the unconstitutionality of warrantless drug testing by the state, as determined by the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Michigan case. Michigan was the only state to actually implement a welfare drug testing program, but the appeals court found that the program violated the Fourth Amendment's provision barring unreasonable searches.  To learn more please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

Article 62: Polish Narcophobia

A short video about Polish drug policy - with English subtitles

Source: Drug Reporter

Video Shows Utah Man being killed in Drugs Raid

This year, Drug War Chronicle is going to try to track every death directly attributable to drug law enforcement during the year. We can use your help. If you come across a news account of a killing related to drug law enforcement, please send us an email at [email protected].]

A police video of a September drug raid in Utah provides graphic evidence of the sometimes dire consequences of SWAT-style drug law enforcement. In the video released by the Salt Lake Tribune, a member of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force repeatedly shoots and kills resident Todd Blair as Blair steps into a hallway holding a golf club like a baseball bat.

According to a Tribune article in December, Blair, while a methamphetamine user and familiar to police, was not the target of the raid and was not supposed to be in the house. In fact, police had earlier seen a man they thought was Blair leaving the house and pulled him over so he wouldn't be present during the raid. But the man was not Blair and was released, at which point police began to prepare a "dynamic entry" or no-knock raid.

The video show police yelling, "Police! Search warrant!" and breaking down the door in a matter of seconds. Ogden police Sgt. Troy Burnett was the first officer through the door when Blair, shirtless, stepped into a hallway brandishing the golf club. He was eight to ten feet away and not advancing when Burnett, without uttering a warning, shoots him three times in the head and chest. As he collapses, Burnett yells "Get on the ground!" Utah authorities determined the shooting was justified.

To learn more, please follow this link

Source: Stop the Drug War

DrugScope: Health and Social Care Bill will have profound impact on delivery of substance misuse treatment

DrugScope has responded to the publication of the Health and Social Care Bill, highlighting the profound implications for the delivery of substance misuse treatment services in England.

“The Bill paves the way for the absorption of the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse into the new Public Health England, the dismantling of existing commissioning structures and systems and the potential ending of ring-fenced funding for substance misuse treatment in the form of the Pooled Treatment Budget.

Under the proposals, drug and alcohol treatment will sit within and be funded by public health which will be the responsibility of Local Directors for Public Health, employed jointly by Public Health England and the local authority. The Government has stated that £1 billion of the projected £4 billion annual budget for Public Health England will be dedicated to drug and alcohol treatment.”

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive said: “While much of the detail of how these proposals will be implemented is still to emerge, it is clear that the plans put forward in today’s Health and Social Care Bill will have far-reaching implications for the delivery of drug and alcohol treatment in England. Existing structures, commissioning processes and the environment in which substance misuse services operate all look set to be radically altered.

“In drug and alcohol treatment, Local Directors of Public Health will take on responsibility for the provision of local clinical services, aspects of which are not traditionally the preserve of public health. It will be important to ensure that provision is sufficiently funded and delivered in a manner that is consistent with the NHS principles, constitution and NICE clinical standards.

“Misuse of drugs and alcohol affects many thousands of individuals and families in England. Over the coming months, DrugScope will be working with its members and meeting with officials to ensure that the importance of drug and alcohol treatment is recognised in the wider debate on health service reform.”

Source: DrugScope

Panama row reveals US drug agency's power

Diplomatic cables published by the website WikiLeaks have plunged the United States into a diplomatic row with Panama over the secret intelligence-gathering work of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in the Central American country.

Panama's President, Ricardo Martinelli, denied the claim made in one of the cables that he asked American diplomats to provide him with access to the DEA's extensive wiretapping program so he could spy on his political opponents. The cables also paint a vivid picture of the DEA's large and expanding operations across the world as the US wars on drugs and terrorism have merged, and as the agency has developed a secret service-like role working with governments that have traditionally been hostile to other US organisations such as the CIA.

In a diplomatic cable in August 2009, the then-US ambassador to Panama, Barbara Stephenson, is quoted saying the newly elected conservative President asked for DEA help with wiretaps. "He clearly made no distinction between legitimate security targets and political enemies," the cable states, adding that Ms Stephenson said "we will not be party to any effort to expand wiretaps to domestic political targets".

According to the cable, the ambassador thought Mr Martinelli was making an implicit threat to cut back on anti-drug cooperation if he did not get US help with the wiretaps – though he backed off on his request when she countered that she would "readily inform Washington and we would all see Panama's reputation as a reliable partner plummet dramatically".

Source: The Independent

 

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