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Weekly news - 22nd July 2022


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New Problem-Solving Courts to combat drug and alcohol-fuelled crime

Ground-breaking new courts will direct drug and alcohol abusers to tackle their addiction head-on or face tough consequences | Ministry of Justice and The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, UK

Recreational drug users could have passports and driving licences confiscated under new plans in government crackdown

Home Secretary Priti Patel says the move shows the government is "cracking down on drug use" which is "a scourge across society" | Sky News, UK

Chinese vaping giant flouting UK advertising rules on selling to children

Observer investigation finds Chinese-owned brand Elf Bar is fuelling the boom in e-cigarettes among young people as social media influencers on TikTok promote its goods in an apparent breach of advertising rules | Guardian, UK

Tom Pursglove MP

Tom Pursglove was appointed Minister of State jointly at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice on 7 July 2022. He holds the drugs and alcohol brief | Gov.uk, UK

Population-level risks of alcohol consumption by amount, geography, age, sex, and year: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2020

The health risks associated with moderate alcohol consumption continue to be debated. Small amounts of alcohol might lower the risk of some health outcomes but increase the risk of others, suggesting that the overall risk depends, in part, on background disease rates, which vary by region, age, sex, and year | Lancet, UK

Schizophrenia and cannabis use: new evidence measures risk of relapse

Cannabis is the most commonly used drug worldwide (World Drug Report, 2021). Individuals with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) seem particularly vulnerable to using cannabis problematically. An estimated 43% of individuals with SSD are diagnosed with cannabis use disorder (CUD), compared to less than 7% in the general population. This group often has poorer life outcomes, more severe psychopathology, lower levels of overall functioning, and are less likely to adhere to treatment, compared to people with SSD who do not use cannabis | Mental Elf, UK

Open consultation: ‘Swift, Certain, Tough: New Consequences for Drug Possession’ white paper

This white paper sets out a tough, escalatory framework aimed at adults caught in possession of low levels of so-called recreational drugs. It includes a combination of proposals for legislation, as well as broader areas for reform. The results of this consultation will inform the government’s approach to reforming the way the criminal justice system deals with adult drug possession offences and to changing drug testing on arrest powers. This consultation closes at 11:59pm on 10 October 2022 | Home Office, UK

Press release: Illicit drug users to face tougher consequences

'Recreational' drug users to face tougher penalties under new proposals subject to consultation | Home Office and The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, UK

Policy paper: Police stop and search powers: draft revised code of practice

Outlines changes in the draft revised code of practice covering the exercise of stop and search powers by police officers under the Terrorism Act 2000| Home Office, UK

ACMD advice on 2-benzyl benzimidazole and piperidine benzimidazolone opioids

A review of the evidence on the use and harms of 2-benzyl benzimidazole (nitazene) and piperidine benzimidazolone (brorphine-like) opioids | ACMD, UK

Government crackdown on smoking and alcohol paused until next PM is chosen, ITV News understands

A major drive to reduce the harm caused by heavy smoking and alcohol use has been placed on pause until a new prime minister is in place, ITV News understands | ITV, UK

Innovative research project to tackle alcohol-related hospital admissions

Alcohol-related hospital admissions in England continue to rise, with estimates that 10% of patients admitted to acute hospitals may be alcohol dependent | University of Southampton, UK

Lockdown restrictions led to poor health behaviours

Strict lockdown restrictions during peak periods of the COVID-19 pandemic have been linked to poorer health behaviours such as drinking more and exercising less | UWS, UK

Cheshire East Council to pay pregnant smokers £400 to quit

Cheshire East Council health committee was told about 10% of the area's expectant mothers were smokers and a pilot scheme paying them over six instalments would cost about £116,000 | BBC, UK

Associations between moderate alcohol consumption, brain iron, and cognition in UK Biobank participants: Observational and mendelian randomization analyses

Brain iron deposition has been linked to several neurodegenerative conditions and reported in alcohol dependence. Whether iron accumulation occurs in moderate drinkers is unknown. Our objectives were to investigate evidence in support of causal relationships between alcohol consumption and brain iron levels and to examine whether higher brain iron represents a potential pathway to alcohol-related cognitive deficits | PLOS One, UK

Systems mapping to understand complexity in the association between image and performance enhancing drugs (IPEDs) and harm

Effective harm reduction work is needed to prevent and respond to the harms associated with image and performance enhancing drug (IPED) use and the diverse needs of IPED communities. Methods based around understanding and mapping complex systems have previously been applied to advance thinking on a range of complex health issues. We applied a systems perspective to explore factors that contribute to IPED-related harms in the UK and to identify harm reduction priorities | IJDP, UK

Responsiveness and preparedness in addressing drug-related needs of displaced Ukrainians in EU countries bordering Ukraine

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, it is estimated that around 8 million people have fled the war in Ukraine, of which an unprecedented 5 million people have crossed the borders into the European Union. An unknown proportion of those displaced will have established drug-related problems and will require medical care for opioid dependence, in particular OAT, as well as for prevention and treatment of drug-related infectious diseases | EMCDDA, Portugal

Home Office plan to punish cannabis and MDMA users is ‘de facto decriminalisation’, say drug policy experts

Campaigners have congratulated the Home Office for taking the ‘road to substantive reform’ but said punishment proposals for repeat offenders is ‘hugely disproportionate’ | I news, UK

Differential impact of minimum unit pricing on alcohol consumption between Scottish men and women: controlled interrupted time series analysis

The objective of this study was to assess the immediate impact of the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland on alcohol consumption and whether the impact differed by sex, level of alcohol consumption, age, social grade and level of residential deprivation of respondents | BMJ Open, UK

Alcohol Packaging As a Promotional Tool: A Focus Group Study With Young Adult Drinkers in Scotland

Little research has been conducted on consumer perceptions of alcohol packaging as a marketing tool. The aim of this study was to explore how young adults view and engage with alcohol packaging | JSAD, UK

Little evidence that chemical imbalance causes depression, UCL scientists find

Researchers question use of antidepressants, prescribed to one in six UK adults | Guardian, UK

Changing Lives - Final Report (PDF)

Over the last three years, we in the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce have listened to the voices of people from across Scotland and beyond with lived and living experience of using drugs, families, service providers in the public, private and voluntary sectors, community representatives, those in our justice and emergency services, academics and many more. We have heard their stories and learned from their experience. Combined with findings from our examination of the evidence base, these stories and experiences are at the heart of our recommendations and actions | SDDTF, UK

Drugs death taskforce chief says punishing addicts must stop

The head of Scotland's drug deaths taskforce has called for an overhaul of addiction services and reform of drugs laws to halt overdose deaths | BBC, UK

Calls for opioid agonist treatments to be used in the treatment of injecting-related infections

Medications such as buprenorphine and methadone should be used to help treat patients with opioid use disorder who come to hospital with injecting-related infections, finds new research from UCL and UNSW, Sydney | UCL News, UK

British drugs policy is punitive and contradictory. And now it’ll go backwards

While other countries are abandoning a failed ‘war on drugs’, in its final days the Johnson administration is doubling down | Guardian opinion, UK