oD Drug Policy Forum: Front Line Report - Week of November 8th 2010

As Charles Shaw's Unheard Voices Project comes to the UK, I am pleased to lead this weeks Front Line Report with news of a what promises to be a truly exciting evening of discussion - 'Who's Addicted to the War on Drugs', a free openDemocracy event, this Tuesday 16th November in King's Cross, London. As well as taking part in an informative discussion of the lessons we can learn from US drug policy, Charles will show material from his current project.
Mark Weiss Charles Shaw
10 November 2010

Who’s Addicted to the War on Drugs – Tuesday 16th November, King’s Cross, London


We warmly invite readers to join openDemocracy author Charles Shaw and film maker Roger Graef to discuss

An evening of discussion on drugs policy and criminal justice.

Charles Shaw, who edits the openDemocracy Drugs Policy Forum, is launching his book Exile Nation about his experiences of the US prison system and will show material from his current project Unheard Voices, collecting testimonies from prisoners, ex-offenders, family members, and notable experts on the far-ranging consequences of the American criminal justice system and discuss what lessons there are for Britain's justice system.

With lawmakers addicted to locking people up, the war on drugs is being lost. What is the balance of damage being done to individuals and to states by drugs and the system of punishing drug taking? Radical solutions are needed in the UK, but are our lawmakers able to think differently and confront solutions that work, rather than just sound good?

Roger Graef, OBE is a distinguished documentary film-maker and criminologist. Among his more than eighty films, he is best known for his pioneering work in gaining access to hitherto closed institutions ranging from ministries and boardrooms to police, courts, prisons, probation and social work. These influential films include the Thames Valley Police, which helped change the way the police deal with rape victims. In Search of Law and Order, took a unique look at some groundbreaking ways of changing juvenile rehabilitation.

When: Tue 16 November, 7pm

Where: The Hub, 34b York Way, King's Cross, London

To ensure a place, please email Julian Stern on [email protected]

Election 2010: Races Still Undecided and Odds and Ends

It ain't over 'til it's over, and in a trio of races of interest to drug reformers, it ain't over. There are also a handful of other races of interest that we haven't mentioned yet. Here's a post-election roundup:

In California, in a race critical to the state's medical marijuana industry that is still close to call, Republican attorney general candidate Steve Cooley Saturday retook the lead from Democratic candidate Kamala Harris. Cooley is a determined foe of the existing dispensary system and has said he believes any dispensary sales of marijuana are illegal. With about 1.3 million absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted, Cooley has 46.0% of the vote to Harris's 45.7%. The Greens got 2.5% of the vote, the Libertarians got 2.5% of the vote, and the Peace and Freedom Party got 1.6% of the vote. As of this writing, Harris trails by about 22,000 votes.

In Arizona, in a race that is still too close to call, the medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 203, trails by slightly more than 5,000 votes out of 1.5 million cast, but with at least 130,000 mail-in and provisional votes yet to be cast. As of this writing, Prop 203 trails with 49.82% of the vote, compared to 50.18% opposed. 

In Washington state, drug reformer and incumbent state Rep. Roger Goodman is leading narrowly in a race that probably won't be called until December 2, the last day for the secretary of state to certify election results. Goodman, the head of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, a national organization affiliated with the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project that Goodman founded, leads challenger Kevin Haistings by a margin of 50.44 to 49.56%. Washington has mail-in ballots, and ballots could be mailed in as late as election day.

Only 60% of the votes were counted election night, and Goodman was down by 500 votes then. Since then, the percentage counted is up to 81%, and Goodman has pulled ahead by 375. For Haistings to pull it out, the late vote trend would have to reverse.

Also in Washington state, a drug law reforming candidate for Snohomish County prosecuting attorney, Jim Kenny, failed in his bid to win office. Kenney got only 30.03% of the vote, compared to 68.76% for his opponent, Mark Roe. Both ran as Democrats.

In Florida, drug reformer Jodi James was defeated in her bid to be elected state representative in District 31. Running as a Democrat, James got 37.81% of the vote, while Republican candidate John Tobia won with 62.19%.

In New York, Rockefeller drug law reformer Eric Schneiderman was elected attorney general. He won 54.9% of the vote, beating Republican candidate Dan Donovan, who had 43.7%. Also in New York, anti-prohibitionist candidates Randy Credico and Kirsten Davis picked up 0.6% and 0.5% respectively in their races for US senator and New York governor.

In Vermont, pro-marijuana decriminalization Democrat Peter Shumlin eked out a narrow victory over Republican Brian Dubie. Shumlin got 49.24% of the vote to Dubie's 47.46%.

Source: Stop the Drug War

First month of Treatment Riskiest for Methadone

Drug users who are prescribed methadone are more at risk of death at the beginning and end of their treatment than any other time, according to research by the University of Bristol. 

The first month of treatment and first month after treatment are times of ‘elevated risk’ says Risk of death during and after opiate substitution therapy in primary care, but overall risk of death is still lower than among drug users not receiving treatment.

The research studied more than 5,500 people prescribed opiate substitution therapy (OST) over a 15-year period from 1990. A total of 178 patients died – 35 per cent while on treatment – with the mortality rate found to be 3.1 times higher in the first two weeks of treatment and 2.3 times higher in the third and fourth weeks. However it was more than eight times higher in the first month after treatment. This is likely to be because of falling tolerance after OST or people continuing to use street opiates on top of their prescription, says the report.

‘In the UK, OST provision has substantially increased but the total number of opiate overdose deaths has remained stable and national targets to reduce their number have not been met,’ said study co-author Professor Matthew Hickman. ‘The elevated risk of death in the first month of treatment and especially in the month after treatment may negate any protective effect of OST, unless duration of treatment is prolonged. Further research is required to test this hypothesis and investigate the impact of average OST duration on drug related deaths.’

Source: Drink and Drug News

Recovery Conference in Central London, 17th November

Leaders in the field will discuss the evidence base for drug and alcohol recovery models and what the implications are for therapeutic interventions. Using examples of best practice we will explore how drug treatment systems can gear up for the increased demand for recovery options from the public; the political support for recovery options and how to make this possible within the economic climate.

Supported by: Andrew Griffiths Member of Parliament & Secretary of the APPG for the Misuse of Drugs and Alcohol

To book your place at the conference, please follow this link

Source: Medineo

A Fifth of IDUs Still Sharing

One fifth of injecting drug users are still sharing needles and syringes, according to a survey by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). The uptake of HIV testing is improving, however, with three quarters of drug users reporting that they have been tested, says the updated Shooting up: infections among injecting drug users in the UK report. 

The prevalence of HIV among current injectors has risen from 0.7 per cent to 1.5 per cent over the last decade, comparable to levels in the early 1990s, while almost one third of injecting drug users with HIV remain unaware of their infection, the report states. More than 4 per cent of injectors in London were infected with HIV, compared to 0.6 per cent in Scotland. However, the ‘vast majority’ of HIV-infected injecting drug users are receiving antiretrovirial therapy, it says. Around a half of injecting drug users were found to be infected with hepatitis C and a sixth with hepatitis B, while around a third reported symptoms of bacterial infection at in injecting site within the last year.

‘Even though the level of injecting-related equip-ment sharing has declined in recent years, large numbers of IDUs continue to report injecting practices that put them at risk of acquiring infections,’ says the document. ‘As a consequence, HIV, hepatitis B and C infections are continuing to occur among IDUs in the UK. The HIV prevalence among recent initiates to injecting suggests that HIV transmission among IDUs may be higher now than it was a decade ago. Interventions that aim to prevent infections among IDUs therefore need to be sustained and the levels of provision reviewed to ensure adequate coverage.’

The HPA has also confirmed that a patient being treated for anthrax infection in Kent has died. There have now been two confirmed anthrax cases in London, one of which was fatal, and one fatal case each in the North West and East Midlands. Scotland has seen 47 anthrax cases, 13 of them fatal.
‘We continue to see occasional cases among injecting drug users, following a cluster of cases earlier this year,’ said director of Kent Health Protection Unit, Dr Mathi Chandrakumar. ‘Exposure to anthrax is now one of a number of risks that drug users are exposed to.’

Source: Drink and Drug News

Marijuana Legalization Movement Takes aim at 2012

Disappointed yet emboldened by Proposition 19's eight point loss a week ago, state and national marijuana legalization leaders are already planning to push for initiatives in as many as five states in 2012. Meetings in California and Colorado in the past few days are laying the groundwork for legalization initiatives there, and similar efforts are being talked about for Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

With election post-mortems already yielding to pre-planning the next moves, the legalization movement smells victory in the air not too far down the road. And the Yes On 19 campaign team is hitting the ground running.

"I just got out of a meeting where we're trying to put together an all-star team to be the board for a 2012 campaign," said Richard Lee, the Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur behind the Prop 19 campaign. "We're hoping to have a formal announcement Thursday, but we'll see how that goes."

If it happens, though, don't count on Lee to be kicking in a million-plus dollars again. "Part of the reason for building this coalition is that I'm tapped out," said Lee. "But I think we got our money's worth, we got a $100 million worth of free media."

The meeting Lee mentioned was of the group's steering board, said activist team Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, who were there. "We're exploring another initiative run in 2012, and it's looking pretty likely because we achieved so much with this campaign, especially with the coalitions we built to support this effort," said Norris.

"There is a real interest in making sure the activist base is included," said Conrad. "We want to try to avoid the divisiveness of this campaign," he added, alluding to intramural attacks from some growers, the Stoners Against Prop 19, and elements of the medical marijuana community. "But people feel they have to have a certain thing, and how can you achieve unity like that? People have to be able to compromise," he said.

National reform groups are also feeling optimistic about 2012. "Even though we lost in California, Richard ended up doing a good thing for the movement," said NORML founder Keith Stroup. "When you look at what went on in the last six or eight months, I don’t think legalization was ever taken seriously by politicians and the press until now. It was probably worth the three or four million spent on that to force marijuana legalization into the national and international spotlight."

Despite this year's loss, "the big picture is Gallup polls showing support higher than ever," said Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mike Meno. "Even some Californians who voted against Prop 19 believe it should be legal. On the central issue, it seems the public is increasingly on our side and heading for a majority."

Prop 19 brought the issue center stage, Meno said. "This year, we had more mainstream press coverage than ever, the debate is out in the open, and many Americans are now for the first time in their lives really thinking seriously about legalizing marijuana."

"There seems to be a consensus around working toward 2012," said Meno. "It's a presidential election year, and there will be more young voters. If the polls continue to trend up, there's no reason not to optimistic that states like Colorado or Washington couldn’t pass something like Prop 19. We're looking at strategically supporting a pair of legalization initiatives in Colorado and California. Support is high, and we have two more years to build on that."

There are a few cautionary voices when it comes to another legalization initiative in California. "Another initiative here in California might be a good idea, but it's premature to say that," said Dale Gieringer of California NORML. CANORML supported Prop 19, but Gieringer from the beginning voiced doubts about its prospects for success. He has doubts again about 2012 in California.

"California voters don’t really like to have the same issue revisited in successive elections," he said. "There have been a bunch of issues that have failed under those circumstances," he recalled, ticking off parental concept for abortion, eminent domain reform, and a school voucher initiative. "I can't think of a case where people have been able to flip the vote in two years," the student of California politics said.

Gieringer also raised another potential problem. "Who is going to fund it? Richard Lee said he doesn’t have the money to do it again. You need a million dollars to get on the ballot," he pointed out. "If I were a major funder, I'd be looking at a less expensive state," he said.

Still, Gieringer said, CANORML would be holding a statewide conference in January to try to begin to see if there is a consensus that can be reached among the state's complex and fractious pot community.

It doesn’t have to be an initiative. There is the legislative process, and this year, Rep. Tom Ammiano managed to get his legalization bill through the Assembly Public Safety Committee. He'll be back at it next year.

"We will be reintroducing our bill to tax and regulate at the beginning of the next session," said Ammiano spokesperson Quintin Mecke. "We'll be looking at any possible changes between now and then."

Mecke credited Prop 19 with moving the issue forward. "I think Prop 19 has put marijuana firmly in the mainstream conversation and the public policy conversation is now being debated at the highest levels of government. People can't just make jokes about it anymore. We are getting close to challenging this notion that we can deal with marijuana simply through law enforcement."

And it doesn't have to be California.In Colorado, SAFER (Safe Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) and Sensible Colorado last Thursday announced that they were pushing ahead with a legalization initiative for 2012. And Saturday, a statewide conference brought national movement figures including SSDP head Aaron Houston, Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann, Steve Fox of the Marijuana Policy Project, and Prop 19's Jeff Jones to Denver to help lay the groundwork. The Saturday summit was also the scene of the announcement of a second initiative campaign, Legalize It 2012, a Jack Herer-style "freedom based" measure, led by Laura Kriho of the Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute.

"There is a great deal of interest in a 2012 statewide initiative to regulate marijuana and start treating it like alcohol," said SAFER's Tvert.  "I think we're poised to make this happen. We've seen support go up dramatically over the past five years and internal polls had it at about 50% this year. Attitudes here have reached a point where this is very realistic," he said.

"We need to get a lot of folks opinion on this, particularly the medical marijuana industry here, where we have hundreds of licensed medical marijuana centers," Tvert said. "We hope to work with them to pass a law that will benefit everyone. There is no specific language yet, but that is what we are beginning to get together."

Tvert said he hoped the community would coalesce around one initiative. "People are doing polling and seeing what language will work," he said. "I hope in the end we will go forward with one initiative that will be the best law possible."

As noted above, similar efforts are underway in Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. The marijuana reform movement thinks it is can go over the top in the next election cycle. Only 103 weeks until we find out if they're right.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Heritage Foundation says Cut Drug Czar’s Office, Byrne Grants, More

In an attempt to provide some specifics for Republican promises to reduce the budget deficit by cutting federal spending, the conservative Heritage Foundation has issued a backgrounder report saying Congress should eliminate the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office), the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities state grant program, and all Justice Department grant programs, except those for the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Institute of Justice. That means the drug task force-funding Justice Assistance Grants (JAG, formerly known as the Byrne grant) are on the chopping block, too.

The report said the federal government could cut a whopping $434 billion and the savings could come from eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and outdated or ineffective programs;consolidating duplicative programs, targeting programs more precisely, privatization, and "empowering state and local governments" by reducing federal funding for them.

Taxpayers could save $30 million by axing the "duplicative" drug czar's office and $298 million by eliminating the Safe and Drug Free Schools state grants, which are used for violence and drug and alcohol prevention programs. The Byrne grant program, which can also be used to fund drug treatment and prevention, is set at $598 million in the Obama administration's FY 2011 budget request. 

The drug budget cuts are only a tiny fraction of  the $343 billion that Heritage said should be cut. The report takes the budget ax to nearly $20 billion in agriculture funding, nearly $8 billion in community development grants, nearly $8 billion in federal education spending, more than $7 billion in energy and environmental spending, nearly $92 billion from federal government operations (including federal employee pay freezes), and nearly $7 billion by cutting federal job training and Job Corps funds.

If the cuts proposed by the Heritage Foundation in its entirety were to be enacted, they would radically shrink the federal government and redraw the picture of what the people expect from government. But the Republicans only control one chamber of Congress, some of the proposed cuts could lead to dissent even within GOP ranks, and Democrats and people who stand to lose out are sure to fight them.

Still, it would be nice if the spirit of bi-partisanship could prevail long enough to begin closing the book on decades of wasted and counter-productive federal drug prohibition spending, even though we wouldn't want to see proven prevention programs slashed.

Source: Stop the Drug War

New Jersey Legislature Committees Reject Proposed Medical Marijuana Regulations

After hearing overwhelmingly negative testimony about proposed medical marijuana regulations developed by the state Department of Health and Senior Services, committees in both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate voted Monday in favor of resolutions demanding that the department rewrite the regs to increase patient access, reduce burdens on doctors, and remove onerous rules.

The resolution gives the department 30 days to rewrite the rules. Although Gov. Chris Christie (R) could heed the signal from today's vote and allow the process to move forward, that's not likely, said Ken Wolski of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. Instead, he said, the resolutions will most likely have to be approved in floor votes.

"The concurrent resolutions in the Senate Health Committee and the Assembly Legislative Oversight Committee said the draft regulations were not consistent with the legislation," said Wolski. "There were hearings all afternoon, and testimony in favor of the resolutions was overwhelming."

New Jersey's medical marijuana law was signed in January by outgoing Gov. Richard Corzine (D). When Christie took office, he sought a six month delay in implementing the program, but the legislature only gave him three. The health department issued draft regulations for the medical marijuana program last month. Among the new limitations: A physician registry, capping THC content, having just three strains of cannabis and limiting cultivation to just two centers.

If the health department refuses to rewrite the regulations or comes back with another restrictive draft, the legislature could simply take over and draft regulations itself. But perhaps Gov. Christie and the executive branch will get the message now and quit standing in the way of patients, doctors, and providers.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Dr. Mollie Fry’s Medical Marijuana Conviction Upheld

A panel on the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the marijuana cultivation and distribution conspiracy convictions of California Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry and her partner, Dale Schafer. Fry and Schafer, both medical marijuana patients, had been sentenced to five years in federal prison in the case, but were free on bail pending the appeal. There is no word yet on when they will have to report to prison or whether they will try further appeals

After developing breast cancer, Dr. Fry turned to medical marijuana, and she and Schafer built up a medical marijuana practice, with Dr. Fry writing recommendations and she and Schafer growing and distributing marijuana to patients. They did so with the understanding from local law enforcement that they were in compliance with state law.

But local law enforcement was working with the DEA, and the couple was raided, arrested, and convicted of violating federal drug control laws. Because they were convicted of growing more than 100 plants, they face mandatory minimum five-year prison sentences.

They appealed the conviction, arguing that because local law enforcement agents were cooperating with the DEA at the same time they were assuring the couple they were in compliance with state law, local law enforcement was in effect working for the feds to entrap them. They also argued that local law enforcement entrapped them for sentencing purposes by encouraging them to grow more than 100 plants, the number that triggers a mandatory minimum sentence. And they argued their convictions should be overturned because they were not allowed to mount a medical marijuana defense.

But the 9th Circuit panel didn't buy any of it. In the opinion authored by Judge Richard Tallman, the court held that Fry and Schafer did not prove they were entrapped and that they were correctly precluded by Supreme Court precedent from mounting a medical marijuana defense. Now, the health-care providing couple are most likely headed to federal prison for their efforts.   

Source: Stop the Drug War

Medical Marijuana Likely Coming soon to Israeli Pharmacies

The Israeli Health Ministry committee on medical marijuana recommended last Wednesday that marijuana be added the list of medicinal drugs. That means it should be available in pharmacies in Israel within six months, provided that the recommendation is accepted by the ministry.

The news was reported Sunday by the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine, which in turn cited a Thursday newsletter from the Israeli embassy in Germany. (That letter, in German, is available at this Israeli diplomatic service web page. Click on the link for November 4.)

Medical marijuana committee head and, until recently, the sole authorized medical marijuana prescriber in Israel, Dr. Yehuda Baruch, made the recommendation. The next step is to form an inter-ministerial committee to resolve open questions.

Baruch said medical marijuana is helpful for multiple sclerosis, patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, and for the relief of chronic pain.

The announcement is just the latest step in medical marijuana's march to acceptance in Israel. Up until September, only Dr. Baruch had been authorized to prescribe medical marijuana. But the health ministry announced that month that five more doctors will be allowed to prescribe.

The number of Israelis who have been prescribed marijuana was two in 2000, 10 in 2005, 700 in the middle of last year, and may be as high as 2,000 now. A Health Ministry official estimated that, with the lessening of the prescribing bottleneck, the number could increase to 5,000 by year's end and tens of thousands in the future.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Californians Still want to Legalize Marijuana despite Proposition 19 Results

California voters rejected Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, by eight percentage points, but a post-election poll has found that they still favor legalizing pot. The poll also suggests that if youth turnout had equaled that in 2008, the campaign to free the weed would have ended in a dead heat.

According to the poll, which was conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, 52% said marijuana prohibition does more harm than good. And 49% said marijuana should be legalized, with 41% opposed and 10% undecided.

"There’s a fair amount of latent support for legalization in California," said Anna Greenberg, the firm’s senior vice president. “It is our view, looking at this research, that if indeed legalization goes on ballot in 2012 in California, that it is poised to win."

So why didn't Prop 19 win? One quarter of those who opposed Prop 19 had considered voting yes and 31% of the no voters said they believed marijuana should be legalized or have penalties reduced, but objected to some aspect of the initiative.

The poll did not ask those respondents specifically what was wrong with the initiative. It would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of weed for people 21 and older and it would have allowed them to grow up to 25 square feet and keep the resulting harvest. It would also have given cities and counties the ability to permit, tax, and regulate commercial marijuana sales and cultivation.

The poll did find, however, that Prop 19's provision making it difficult for employers to fire workers just for testing positive for marijuana may have hurt. Voters said by 50% to 44% that employers should have the right to fire workers who test positive even if they are not impaired.

This issue isn't going away.

Source: Stop the Drug War

Facing the Future – NTA Chief Executive’s Speech to DrugScope Conference

Harm reduction services will remain a cornerstone of a balanced drug treatment system even as it adopts a more recovery-oriented focus, according to Paul Hayes, NTA Chief Executive.

He told a DrugScope conference that government plans for the new Public Health Service to oversee drug and alcohol treatment services was a guarantee of the enduring importance of reducing blood-borne virus infections and drug-related deaths. 

"The new Drug Strategy will be recovery-focussed but that does not mean it is abstinence-obsessed. There is no threat to harm reduction services," said Mr Hayes.

"There is no political appetite to challenge the maintenance of a balanced treatment system in which harm reduction services are the bedrock of what we do and a gateway into treatment and recovery. Our challenge for the future is adding recovery into what we do in a more systematic way, not subtracting harm reduction."

Mr Hayes spoke shortly before Anne Milton, the Public Health Minister, announced that the spending review had transferred some of the £600 million drugs budget from the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice to the Department of Health from next year.

"This gives us the chance to join up spending on drug treatment to improve support along the full course of a person's recovery," she told the conference on tackling drugs in the new decade.

"It also means we can avoid waste and duplication – to make sure every penny really works hard for service users." (Read Anne Milton's speech)

Earlier Mr Hayes confided that he was "not losing sleep" over the prospective level of the Pooled Treatment Budget next year, but he was worried about the threat of disinvestment by hard-pressed local authorities and primary care trusts who currently spend an extra £200 million on drug treatment in England.

He urged DrugScope members to lobby local politicians, councillors and decision-makers to maintain the level of local investment in drug treatment and ensure the new Public Health Service had local as well as national funding streams.

Mr Hayes said the NTA's role over the next 18 months was to manage the transition to the Public Health Service, into which the NTA itself would be incorporated. The NTA would continue to promote recovery, improve skills, incentivise performance, and ensure transparency and set out a business plan for 2011-12 once the Drug Strategy was published.  

Mr Hayes added: "We want a recovery-oriented system that is ambitious for clients, focussed on outcomes, engaged with communities, and plumbed into mutual aid networks, so that people who go on this journey emerge not only drug-free but also have a job, somewhere to live, are in touch with their families and a stake in society."

Source: National Treatment Agency

NTA Fulfils Promise on Expert Group on Medication and Recovery

An expert group chaired by Prof John Strang of the National Addiction Centre meets for the first time today (8th November) to start developing new expert guidance on how the prescribing of medications can help individuals achieve fuller recovery.

The group was set up as part of National Treatment Agency plans to refocus the drug treatment system in England and enable service-users to sustain recovery, rebuild their lives and make a contribution to society.

It brings together experts in drug treatment – doctors, nurses, treatment providers, service-users, carers and the voluntary sector - to examine ways of ensuring that service users do not drift into long-term substitute prescribing without efforts being made to maximise beneficial change in their lives.  

The latest National Drug Treatment Monitoring System figures show that almost two thirds of heroin addicts in treatment are maintained on opiate substitutes for more than a year. Of the 153,632 people receiving substitute prescribing in 2009-10, 35,120 had been on methadone or buprenorphine for more than four years.

Paul Hayes, NTA Chief Executive, said: "People come into treatment wanting to get better. Month by month, more people are successfully overcoming their addiction.  We are moving in the right direction, but there is more we could do to engender hope in the treatment system and ensure more clients are on the road to recovery.

"Medical experts tell us it can take several years for heroin addicts to overcome their dependency. So it is hardly surprising that a large proportion of those in treatment - about 95,000 at the last count – were on prescribing for longer than a year, one-third of them for more than four years.

"We know that some vulnerable individuals will always need long-term support, but we also suspect that many others could be helped to make earlier fuller recovery sooner. What are the right proportions, who is ready to move on safely and when, and how we ensure substitute prescribing does not become a default option, are issues we want Prof John Strang and his expert clinical group to consider."

Professor Strang said: "I am pleased to be involved with creating a more dynamic treatment system so that those with addiction problems can be helped in the best ways possible for their individual circumstances and personal aspirations.  For some individuals, the best treatment will include the prescribing of substitute medications, while for others this may be inappropriate or unnecessary.  In all instances, the objective is to enable the individual to achieve their full personal recovery, and the challenge for the expert group will be to develop clinical protocols to guide clinicians and agencies to help individuals make progress towards this objective."

Source: National Treatment Agency

24/7 sobriety programme may be piloted with offenders in the UK

The "24/7 sobriety" programme which involves people being made to pay to be tested for alcohol twice a day after being convicted of drink-related crime, may be piloted in London.

The scheme has already been implemented in the US state of South Dakota, which has reported a two-thirds drop in drink-driving, a 99.6% compliance rate among the 16,000 people who have taken part and a 14% reduction in the prison population.

The London mayor, Boris Johnson, is lobbying the government for permission to trial a pilot scheme here.

Don Shenker, Alcohol Concern's Chief Executive said: "What we really need is to provide offenders with the opportunity to learn how to change their drinking behaviour through brief advice and support. Enforcing a period of sobriety will not necessarily change problem drinking in the long term. Local alcohol arrest referral schemes already operate in England, are very effective  and should be rolled out nationally".

Source: Alcohol Concern

Addaction asks ‘How big should the Big Society be?’ 

A couple of days ago I was sitting in on a meeting in Glasgow, run by a group of Addaction's service users. The people there were providing each other with support and motivation, to help in their recovery from addiction. For some this addiction was to drugs, for others alcohol. We run a number of these groups around the UK and they add real value to the specialist support provided by our staff and volunteers.

The way these people were voluntarily playing a part in the health and well being of others made me think. In the treatment sector, we can call these groups things like 'social capital' and 'peer led-recovery', but they're also a great example of the Government's vision of the 'Big Society'. It may surprise some that a group of self-professed 'hardened addicts' could be part of that vision. By their own admission, these people's behaviour had impacted terribly on their relationships, families and the communities in which they lived. For many people, this would be enough to write them off. 

Source: Addaction

Addaction Website gets new Facelift

Addaction, the UK’s largest specialist drug and alcohol treatment charity, has launched a new corporate website designed and developed by Nemisys.

The aims of the new and improved website are to:

• Maximise public awareness of Addaction’s mission

• Provide accurate information and signpost routes to further support to those affected by drugs and alcohol

• Raise funds for Addaction

• Encourage new members of staff and volunteers into Addaction

• Keep all key stakeholders and members up-to-date with Addaction’s work

• Encourage the development of an online community of users 

Hannah Daws, Head of Policy and Communications, said: “The old website for Addaction was a poor reflection of our work, with a look that was outdated and not in tune with the current brand.

“The new site gives the visitor a much richer and deeper experience of the charity with hugely improved content and navigation tools. Addaction is all about the people it supports and the use case studies and photography really brings this to life.”

Source: Addaction

Independent Drugs Enquiry Report

We are very pleased to share with you the final report of the Independent Drugs Enquiry, chaired by John Matthews OBE. 

Rather than a blizzard of recommendations, we offer two challenges: the need for a whole nation approach to changing the culture in which drugs and alcohol misuse takes place; and the 'Circle of Care' which is a person centred approach to delivering services to those who misuse drugs and alcohol.

We set ourselves the task of producing a report that is short, easy to read and free from jargon. We hope that you think that we have achieved this and that you find the report says many of the things that need to be said at the same time as offering hope - not just to those who misuse drugs and alcohol but to those who seek to offer help and support.

The report is addressed to those who work in the field and to policy makers. More importantly, it speaks directly to the people of Scotland because, as with the recovery of individuals and communities, Scotland needs encouragement and the aspiration to change.  Please feel welcome to download the report and pass onto your colleagues. 

Source: STRADA

After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation

There is a growing recognition around the world that the prohibition of drugs is a counterproductive failure. However, a major barrier to drug law reform has been a widespread fear of the unknown—just what could a post-prohibition regime look like?

For the first time, ‘After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation' answers that question by proposing specific models of regulation for each main type and preparation of prohibited drug, coupled with the principles and rationale for doing so.

We demonstrate that moving to the legal regulation of drugs is not an unthinkable, politically impossible step in the dark, but a sensible, pragmatic approach to control drug production, supply and use.

Source: Transform

Scottish Government Announce Cocaine Awareness Campaign

You don't know what you're getting with cocaine - that's the key message at the heart of the Scottish Government's biggest ever initiative to raise awareness among 18 to 24 year olds of the health risks around cocaine use.

The Know the Score campaign's four-week programme of Cocaine Awareness Weekends was officially launched today at Element, one of 140 pubs and clubs across Scotland which will be visited by field marketing staff highlighting the dangers of using the drug.

Revellers in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness, Stirling, Falkirk, Hamilton, Motherwell, Paisley, Perth and St Andrews will be targeted with campaign messages on Friday and Saturday nights between 12 November and 4 December.

The Cocaine Awareness Weekend activity will be bolstered by a hard-hitting £269,000 Know the Score radio, cinema and online advertising campaign which will run for five weeks from Friday 12 November in the run-up to the Christmas and Hogmanay party season.

Minister for Community Safety Fergus Ewing said: “The key message of this campaign is clear - you don't know what you're getting when you take cocaine. Cocaine is not a harmless drug; the risks to health of individuals and communities are as serious as they are significant and that's why this festive period we are taking the message across Scotland to highlight the dangers.

"I want everyone, including young people, to have the best information, advice and support available to ensure they all Know the Score. That's why we are working with local partners, the licensed trade and young people themselves to get information out there in a way that's credible, meaningful and supportive of healthy lifestyle choices."

The campaign aims to correct popular misconceptions about cocaine which is now the second most used drug amongst young people.

Each Cocaine Awareness Weekend aims to educate young people about the numerous side effects of cocaine, using the message you don't know what you're getting with cocaine.

It highlights the numerous health risks that can be associated with cocaine use, such as an increased heart rate, sweating, chest pain, anxiety and paranoia along with the increased chance of a heart attack or stroke.

Each venue participating in the weekends will be displaying campaign materials outlining the dangers, and field marketing staff will talk to young people, seeking their opinions and experiences of the drug.

The campaign has the backing of community Alcohol and Drug Partnerships across the country, along with the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the National Union of Students, and Young Scot.

Speaking at the Cocaine Awareness Weekends launch event, Nick Smith, Manager, Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership, said:

"Young people often see cocaine as a harmless, even glamorous drug, a problem which is compounded by its falling cost and increased levels of availability across the country.

"Cocaine use can lead to some very serious health problems, in addition to the danger of becoming addicted to the drug.

"I welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to educating young people on the dangers of cocaine through the Cocaine Awareness Weekends and the wider Know the Score campaign."

For more information on Know the Score and Cocaine Awareness Weekends, visit www.knowthescore.info 

Background note: The Cocaine Awareness Weekends will take place at the following locations: 

  • 12/13 November Edinburgh
  • 19/20 November Glasgow
  • 19/20 November Stirling
  • 20 November Falkirk
  • 26/27 November Dundee
  • 26 November Hamilton
  • 27 November Motherwell
  • 27 November Paisley
  • 3/4 December Aberdeen
  • 3/4 December Inverness
  • 3/4 December Perth
  • 3 December St Andrews

Source: Scotland.gov

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