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Daily news - 30th March 2022

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Sara McGrail:  a tribute
It is with great sadness and deep shock that I report the sudden passing of Sara McGrail.  From her early days as a frontline drugs worker through to senior positions as a DAT Coordinator, the NTA and Turning Point and as an independent consultant (including for DrugScope) she was a passionate and tireless advocate for those with the most serious drug problems.

Hers was a fierce intellect which cut through bureaucratic bullshit and hypocrisy with whiplash intensity anchored to a forensic knowledge of the systems and procedures she criticised. She could be combative and feisty, but always in the service of the marginalised and disadvantaged.  Sara also had a way with words and as a small tribute to her legacy, here is a link to the articles she wrote for Druglink. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her and I am proud to call her my friend | Harry Shapiro, UK

Delivering a problem? Online sales and deliveries of alcohol

The charity Alcohol Change UK has warned that retailers are not doing enough to prevent children from getting hold of alcohol bought online. New research published today [30 March 2022] highlights major weaknesses in online age verification controls, and failures in checking age when delivering alcohol to people’s homes | Alcohol Change UK, UK

A question of choice

Mohammed Fessal looks at the evolving role of buprenorphine in medication-assisted treatment in the UK and how it has benefitted Change Grow Live’s service users | DDN, UK

Racial bias in jailing of drug offenders

[Free one month trial available] A Freedom of Information request by The Times found that 1,200 black people with no previous drug convictions were jailed for possession over the past five years. Nearly 700 of these were sentenced for possession of cannabis or other less-serious drugs | The Times, UK

Isle of Man 'overwhelmingly in favour' of medicinal cannabis facility following consultation

Peel NRE hopes to build a £100m science and innovation centre, which will include an indoor cultivation facilities and a new research campus near Cooil Road in Braddan | ITV, UK

Prisoners: Rehabilitation

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what figures his Department holds on the number of prisoners who have taken part in accredited substance misuse intervention progammes in each year since 2010 | They work for you, UK

Stop and swab by police

What legal basis was used to justify the ‘stop and swab’ of people entering two licensed premises in Curtain Road EC2A between 6 and 12 December 2021 shown in the @MetPoliceUk tweet of 2 January 2022? | They work for you, UK

Smoking to be banned at all Isle of Man health settings

Smoking will be banned at all health and care settings on the Isle of Man from Friday, the health and social care minister has said | BBC, UK

Aberystwyth: Drugs and violence fears in town

Some living in part of Aberystwyth - the Rheidol ward - say drugs are being openly dealt in the streets, with fights between gangs | BBC, UK

Remembering the smoking ban introduced in Scotland 16 years ago

On March 26, 2006, smokers stubbed out their cigarettes in pubs for the last time. And while it only seems like yesterday to many of us, it has now been 16 years since the law was introduced | Glasgow Live, UK

Mixing it up: record number of Britons drink cocktails in Covid pandemic

Drinks firm AG Barr says pornstar martinis and mojitos are among UK’s most popular cocktails | Guardian, UK

The changing landscape for multiple disadvantage

TODAY. Wed, 30 March 2022, 10:00 – 16:00 BST. This conference brings together a wide range of people, places and organisations working to, or interested in, tackling multiple disadvantage. Through five conversations we will reflect on what we have learnt together as a network so far, celebrate success, take a constructively critical look at what has yet to be achieved, and together form a long-view on what needs to happen in the next five years | MEAM, UK

BETTER THAN WELL – The UK’s first University-led Collegiate Recovery Program for Addiction

Apr 4, 2022 01:00 PM in London. The Collegiate Recovery Program (CRP) is a concept developed in the USA over than past 40 years. Such programs combine elements of peer support, educational support, recovery skills, sober social activities and community service to support university students to build recovery capital whilst maximising their learning experience. This presentation will review the background and supporting evidence base for CRPs, before describing the process of development of BTW through the eyes of some of its participants | Better Than Well, UK

Brighton man jailed for turning home into cannabis factory

A thermal imaging camera detected an unusual amount of heat coming from inside, Sussex Police said | BBC, UK


International news

Singapore to execute mentally disabled Malaysian man after final appeal rejected

A Singapore court has rejected the final appeal against the death sentence of a mentally disabled Malaysian man convicted of smuggling drugs into the country, confirming his execution | Independent, UK

Not just ‘cocaine and war’: Colombian pride at Oscar-winning Encanto’s positive portrayal

Animated film, influenced heavily by magical realism, breaks frequent representation as country beset by drugs and violence | Guardian, UK

Mexico drug wars send avocado prices soaring

[Limited number of free articles per month] The fruit's growing popularity has fuelled conflict in Mexico's avocado growing region | Telegraph, UK

Hospital initiation of benzodiazepines and Z-drugs in older adults and discontinuation in primary care

This retrospective cohort study involved anonymised electronic record data on prescribing and hospitalisations for 38,229 patients aged ≥65 from forty-four GP practices in Ireland 2011–2016. BZRA initiations were identified among patients with no BZRA prescription in the previous 12 months. Multivariate regression examined whether instructions on discharge messages for hospital-initiated BZRA prescriptions was associated with continuation after discharge in primary care and time to discontinuation | Research in Social and Administrative Pharmacy, Ireland

New phase of EU Central Asian Drug Action Programme (CADAP) celebrated today

The latest phase of the EU-funded Central Asian Drug Action Programme (CADAP 7), is celebrated today in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan). The EMCDDA is participating in the official launch ceremony as one of the EU agencies providing ad hoc support to the programme until 2024 | EMCDDA, Portugal

EMCDDA releases new European miniguides on responding to drug use in specific settings

An important approach to the implementation of health and social responses to drug problems can be to focus interventions on the specific settings where problems may occur. For this reason, the EMCDDA’s Health and social responses to drug problems: a European guide includes a set of miniguides devoted to this topic | EMCDDA, Portugal

Workplaces and drugs: health and social responses

This miniguide provides an overview of what to consider when planning or delivering health and social responses to drug-related problems at the workplace, and reviews the available interventions and their effectiveness. It also considers implications for policy and practice | EMCDDA, Portugal

More older adults getting treated for substance abuse

The rate at which older adults were treated for substance abuse increased sharply from 2000 to 2017, UConn Health researchers report in the March 28 issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The rates of older adults getting treatment increased substantially while the rate of younger adults remained stable over time | Science Daily, USA

Are E-Cigarettes a “Gateway” to Cannabis Use Among Adolescents? It Depends on Mental Health Status

A new study led by public health researchers at Georgia State has found that mental health status significantly affects whether adolescents who use e-cigarettes will begin using cannabis. However, the study also shows that adolescents’ risk for cannabis use differs based on the type of mental health problems they experience | Georgia State University, USA

Treatment for substance use reduces depression for many adolescents and young adults with both problems

A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), published by Elsevier, reports that, among youth with substance use and depression, a significant proportion show early improvements in depression during their treatment for substance use | EurekAlert, USA

The DRAM, Vol. 18(4) - Children’s developing understanding of situational drinking norms

One way children learn about alcohol is by watching how adults drink in different situations. They learn, for example, that it’s appropriate to drink at a party but not while driving. The term “situational drinking norms” refers to culturally accepted levels of drinking for different people, in different situations. It is possible that men and women have different drinking habits partly because boys and girls develop a different understanding of situational drinking norms | BASIS, USA

Myriad New Drugs Complicate Legalization, as Well as Harm Reduction

Humans have found or created a truly staggering number of psychoactive substances. Some, like cannabis, various opioids and cocaine, have a long history of use and come (in some way or another) from plants or fungi. We also have a fairly long record of creating drugs in labs, like LSD and methamphetamine. It’s this latter category where things have exploded in recent years | Filter Magazine, USA

Can cannabis substitute for alcohol in people receiving treatment to reduce their drinking?

It is not uncommon for individuals who are seeking to reduce or stop drinking to consume cannabis as a substitute for alcohol. While consuming cannabis may theoretically help some people reduce their alcohol intake, some studies have shown it can actually lead to worse drinking outcomes. This study explored if cannabis use influences same-day alcohol use among heavy drinkers seeking to reduce or stop drinking | Recovery Research Institute, USA

Buprenorphine is more effective than methadone in reducing opioid use among patients with co-occurring mental health conditions

Many individuals with opioid use disorder also have co-occurring mental health conditions. Two commonly used agonist medications for opioid use disorder—buprenorphine and methadone—are effective in reducing opioid use as well as improving other psychiatric symptoms. This study compares the effects of each of these medications on reducing opioid use among patients with co-occurring mental health disorders | Recovery Research Institute, USA

Mothers Who Use Drugs: Closing the Gaps in Harm Reduction Response Amidst the Dual Epidemics of Overdose and Violence in a Canadian Urban Setting

To identify key gaps in overdose prevention interventions for mothers who use drugs and the paradoxical impact of institutional practices that can increase overdose risk in the context of punitive drug policies and a toxic drug supply | AJPH, USA

Language choice helps reduce stigma, discrimination surrounding drug use: Drug expert

Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network (ZCLDN) executive projects director Wilson Box says use of inappropriate language adds to drug or substance use stigma, arguing that wide of the mark language choices affect the well being of people who use drugs | The Standard, Zimbabwe



Blogs, comment and opinion

Harry’s blog 113: The Human(ity) Factor

As part of my preparation work for the next Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report, which is due out in November, I was reading Professor Virginia Berridge’s book Demons: Our Changing Attitudes to Alcohol, Tobacco and Drugs, published in 2013. I was surprised to read that back in the 1970s, the anti-smoking warriors objected to medical help for people who wanted to stop smoking | NSP blog, UK

Drug related deaths are at a record high – we must now take collective action

A public health emergency is occurring in England – each year thousands of people are dying from drug related causes. Stigma, discrimination, disinvestment and the erosion of wider support systems have taken their toll on a group of people who are developing multiple health challenges as they get older. Over 4,500 people died in 2020, a truly intolerable statistic, and one that is likely to continue rising without swift and targeted action | Collective Voice blog, UK

Medicinal licensing of e-cigarettes

In their criticism of the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency's decision to support the process to develop medicinal licensing of e-cigarettes, Sarah Brown and colleagues overlook a wealth of evidence suggesting that use of these devices is substantially less harmful than smoking as well as a Cochrane review6 and actual use data7 showing that, by providing an alternative source of nicotine, e-cigarettes can be an effective aid to support people to quit smoking | Lancet correspondence, UK

Thinking about “disease” as complex and multi-dimensional

One argument against the disease model of addiction is that it advances a narrow medical model at the expense of recognizing social and environmental epidemiological considerations, as well as social and environmental interventions | Recovery Review blog, USA