WHATS NEW? - August 2016

New Psychoactive Substances – what schools need to know about the new law

Danger from ecstasy 'greater than ever' say drug experts

Volunteers sought to test effect of ketamine on alcoholism

Hospital admissions for drug-related problems reach decade high

Cannabis users who put tobacco in joints 'more likely to be addicted'

Antidepressant prescriptions in England double in a decade

Alcohol-related deaths in England up 4% in one year

Most MPs back legalisation of medical cannabis, poll finds

The UK's first drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit for children being built in Cornwall.

Police warn that Psychoactive Substances ban will increase use of the 'Dark Web'

New Psychoactive Substances – what schools need to know about the new law

This briefing paper, produced by Mentor – Adepis, is intended to update education practitioners about The Psychoactive Substances Act 2016, which came into effect on 26th May 2016, and to help them understand the implications that the new legislation might have on those who are willing to include these substances in their alcohol and drug education programmes.

To download the two page briefing CLICK HERE.

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Danger from ecstasy 'greater than ever' say drug experts

There's a warning that 2016 may be the most dangerous time to take MDMA for a generation. The Global Drug Survey 2016 polled 50,000 ecstasy users and found much stronger pills and powders are in circulation.

It's leading to an increase in hospital admissions, according to researchers, because users are not always aware of purity levels. Figures show that young women are more likely to end up in an emergency department.

Dr Adam Winstock from the Global Drug Survey explained why the new higher levels are such a problem. "A dose of about 80mg of MDMA for most people, without tolerance and assuming average body weight, gives them the pleasurable effects of energy, euphoria and empathy," he explained.

"[These] outweigh the negative effects that become more common with bigger doses such as nausea, panic, paranoia, agitation and gurning. Higher doses tend to leave people feeling too wasted for too long and being less able to enjoy the people around them and their environment.

"The current average dose of MDMA used in a session across many countries is over 200mg. We think for most people this is too much."

It says higher dose pills and high purity MDMA powders can make it very easy for users to take too much. This backs up a major report from international drug experts.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction warned in a recent report that ecstasy and MDMA is getting stronger with dangerously "pure" pills and crystals in circulation.

Its latest report highlights a "recent resurgence in use of MDMA in Europe and increased availability of high-strength MDMA tablets and powders.MDMA has never been so plentiful and as all recent data shows, more and more people are using it.

The authors of the reports say it is time people committed to taking MDMA learned how to use the drug more safely. Dr Winstock said that if people chose to take the drug, there were three pieces of advice he wanted people to listen to.

"People should aim to use less MDMA. If you are going to re-dose, you should do so after you have peaked to reduce the risk of higher dose unwanted effects".

Try not to use more often than once a month."

"Stay cool and hydrated and try to avoid mixing with other drugs or alcohol."

For further practical advice, please follow this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4cdV7PRy9N75W8QmbZTphVs/ecstasy-mdma

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Volunteers sought to test effect of ketamine on alcoholism

UK scientists are currently recruiting volunteers to research the use of the drug ketamine as a treatment for alcoholism.

The study, funded by the Medical Research Council, will specifically look at whether receiving injections of ketamine in conjunction with psychological therapy can prevent abstinent alcoholics from relapsing.

Ketamine is an anaesthetic which is known for its potential to treat depression, although it also has major side effects – including hallucinations – and has the potential to be abused because of its addictive nature. Previous studies in mice have suggested that ketamine could produce changes in our brains that make it easier to make new connections and learn new things in the short-term.

This is an interesting find in the context of alcoholism research. Indeed, the scientists working on this project – from the University of Exeter, UCL and Imperial College – hope that giving ketamine to people with alcohol addiction could make the sessions of psychological therapy more effective. They also believe that the antidepressant properties of the drug could alleviate symptoms of depression as people struggle to stay abstinent.

The study – known as 'KARE' (Ketamine for Reduction of Alcoholic Relapse) – aims to recruit 96 recently abstinent volunteers with severe alcohol use disorder, commonly referred to as alcoholism. In the UK, close to four million people are affected by the condition.

Participants will be given a low-dose of ketamine by injection once a week for three weeks in conjunction with seven 90 minute sessions of psychological therapy. A group of 'controls' will also be recruited in order to assess the effects of ketamine.

These participants will also go through psychotherapy, but they will be injected with a placebo saline solution instead of ketamine. Because the aim of the study is to see whether ketamine reduces the probability of a relapse, all participants will be asked to wear a device on their ankle that will monitor their alcohol intake over the following six months by measuring the level of alcohol in their sweat.

The researchers are hopeful most relapses will be avoided thanks to ketamine, as they have found that three doses of ketamine in conjunction with psychological therapy reduced average 12-month relapse rates from 76% to 34 % in a pilot study.

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Hospital admissions for drug-related problems reach decade high

Figures show number of cases resulting in primary or secondary diagnoses of mental health and behavioural disorders has more than doubled.

More people are ending up in hospital with physical or mental health problems related to drug use than at any time in the past 10 years, despite an overall fall in the number of people using illegal drugs, figures show.

There were 14,279 cases of people admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs in England in 2014-15, the latest year for which figures are available – a 57% rise since 2004-05 and up 2% year on year.

At the same time, 74,801 hospital admissions resulted in a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders, a 9% rise over 2013-14 and more than double the level of 10 years ago, according to the data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The figures will prove uncomfortable for policymakers who say they are keen to minimise the harm caused by drugs in society, particularly with separate data from the crime survey of England and Wales, also published on Thursday, showing a continued decline in drug use. Despite that, deaths from drug poisoning are at an all-time high.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which last month called for the decriminalisation of drugs, said the contrasting figures showed up UK drugs policy as a "continued failure".

She said: "Despite falls in use, more people are dying and suffering serious harm to their health from drug misuse than ever before. This is largely a result of a drugs policy that has over-focused on criminal justice at the expense of public health, pushing the most vulnerable users to the margins of society and discouraging them from coming forward for treatment and support.

"Across the globe, many countries have started to turn this situation around by decriminalising drug use and moving towards policies based on public health and harm reduction. Given yet more evidence that harm to the public is increasing, the time is now right for the UK to adopt a new approach to drugs policy."

For full report CLICK HERE

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Cannabis users who put tobacco in joints 'more likely to be addicted'

Cannabis smokers who mix tobacco in their joints are more likely to have symptoms of dependence, according to research that suggests encouraging them to smoke it on its own to reduce harm.

In the first study on the popularity of different modes of cannabis consumption around the world, researchers found a link between using cannabis with tobacco and addictive behaviour.

Chandni Hindocha, a doctoral student at the clinical psychopharmacology unit of University College London, who led the research, said: "Cannabis is less addictive than tobacco, but we show here that mixing tobacco with cannabis lowers the motivation to quit using these drugs."

Hindocha and colleagues investigated the ways people smoked cannabis by analysing responses from 33,687 cannabis users from 18 countries to the 2014 Global Drug Survey. They found that those who did not mix cannabis with tobacco were far more motivated to quit and thus more likely likely to seek professional help for cannabis and nicotine addiction.

Cannabis users who favoured non-tobacco routes were 61.5% more likely to want professional help to use less cannabis, and 80.6% more likely to want help to use less tobacco, than users who prefer tobacco routes.

They also had 10.7% higher likelihood of wanting to use less tobacco, and were 103.9% more likely to be actively planning to seek help to use less tobacco.The results suggest that people who regularly mix tobacco with cannabis are more at risk of psychological dependence than people who use cannabis and tobacco separately, without mixing them, or use cannabis alone, the researchers said.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, also found that mixing cannabis with tobacco was far more popular in Europe than it was elsewhere in the world.

To read the full report CLICK HERE.

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Antidepressant prescriptions in England double in a decade

The number of antidepressants given to patients in England has doubled in a decade, official figures show.

In 2015 there were 61m such drugs prescribed and dispensed outside of hospitals. They are used to treat clinical depression as well as other conditions such as generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks.

The total was 31.6m more than in 2005 and up 3.9m, or 6.8% on 2014, according to a report from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

The net cost of ingredients of antidepressants, before taking account of any money reclaimed by the NHS, was nearly £285m last year. About nine in 10 of all medicines are dispensed to people eligible for free prescriptions, including older people and children.

The rise of antidepressant prescriptions, a persistent upward trend across the UK, comes amid Mounting concerns about mental health in Britain.

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at the mental health charity Mind, said: "These latest figures show no sign of this trend slowing and we need to understand why we are seeing persistent year-on-year increases. It may be that more people are coming forward and seeking help, or that doctors are getting better at spotting the symptoms of mental health problems, but these are unlikely to be the only reasons."

She said it was vital to better understand "exactly how many people are taking antidepressants, for how long and whether they are receiving other treatment alongside medication".

Though talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling were becoming more widely available, they were still not available to everyone who needed them, said Nash

The full report can be found by CLICKING HERE

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Alcohol-related deaths in England up 4% in one year

Alcohol-related deaths in England have risen by 4% in a year and by 13% in a decade, according to figures published in July.

Alcohol-related liver disease accounted for nearly two-thirds, 63%, of the 6,830 deaths in 2014, a total described by local councils as "shocking". Admissions to hospital where alcohol-linked disease or injury was the primary reason increased by 32%, to 333,000, between 2004-05 and 2014-15, said the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

Its new report, Statistics on Alcohol: England, 2016, pulled together data from various sources to give a picture of the changing impact of alcohol consumption on health over time.

It revealed that diseases or injuries linked to drinking either as a primary reason or secondary diagnosis went up by 30,000, from 1.06m to 1.09m, between 2013-14 and 2014-15, with men accounting for 65% of the total. This broad measure is regarded as the best indicator of the total strain alcohol places on national health.

Salford in Greater Manchester had the highest estimated rate of such hospital admissions, 3,570 per 100,000 population. Wokingham, Berkshire, had the lowest, 1,270 per 100,000.

The report also said prescriptions for medicines to tackle alcohol dependence rose from 109,000 in 2005 to 196,000 in 2015.

There was some comfort for the government, however: in a 2014 survey, 38% of secondary school pupils said they had tried alcohol, representing the lowest figure since surveys began in 1982, when it was 62%.

To read the full report please CLICK HERE.

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Most MPs back legalisation of medical cannabis, poll finds

More than half of MPs want to see the legalisation of medical marijuana, a survey has found.

The polling, which follows parliamentary debates on the issue, found that 58 per cent of MPs backed the use of cannabis for people battling health conditions. Those supporting the move include Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, and Dr Dan Poulter, a former health minister and Tory MP.

Just 27 per cent of MPs were opposed to legalisation for medical use, the survey found.

The poll, conducted by Populus, surveyed a representative sample of 108 MPs, on behalf of VolteFace, a group campaigning for changes public policies on drugs.

It found 60 per cent of Labour MPs supported the use of cannabis for medical reasons, along with 55 per cent of Conservatives. Support from the Scottish National Party was most dramatic, with 88 per cent of MPs in support and none of those polled expressing any opposition.

In recent years, studies have increasingly supported the medical value of cannabis for treating conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and arthritis, and for dealing with nerve pain.

Currently neither the Conservative nor Labour Party officially supports legalising cannabis for medical use. Both the Green Party and Liberal Democrats have called for legalisation for medical use for some time. Earlier this year the Lib Dems went a step further, calling for legalisation of recreational use as well.

An estimated one million people in the UK use cannabis for medical reasons, risking arrest and prosecution by buying cannabis from drug-dealers or growing it themselves.

An End Our Pain campaign, which has seen thousands of people sign a petition in support of medical cannabis, includes Richard Brandson and Joanna Lumley as celebrity supporters.

Peter Carroll, campaign spokesman, said: "The End Our Pain campaign is fighting hard to get enough MPs on side to get the law changed, and this poll gives us grounds for optimism. The result shows that Parliament shares our view that people who take cannabis for medical reasons are patients, not criminals."

To read more about the End Our Pain campaign CLICK HERE.

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The UK's first drug and alcohol rehabilitation unit for children being built in Cornwall.

The new treatment centre at Bosence Farm Community in Hayle will help young people overcome their addictions with alcohol, traditional 'street' drugs and New Psychoactive Substances such as synthetic cannabinoids.

The facility will be the first in Cornwall to offer detox and dependency treatment for the under-18s and those with families facing drug and or alcohol addiction. Kate Cook, Bosence Farm's chief executive, said: "There is no residential provision in Cornwall and limited provision in the country for young people under 18 who have problems with drugs and alcohol. We also know that there are significant barriers to parents in need of treatment taking up residential support because of concern for their children's wellbeing particularly when the seriousness of their problems may mean they lose custody altogether.

"This centre will mean that we can help families and individuals with complex needs right here in Cornwall, and significantly improve the outcomes; all the current research shows that it is better for those needing treatment to get it closer to their homes and wider support networks. It also has the wider community benefit that this should be much better value for money all round."

Bosence Farm Community, which is a charity, has been providing specialist drug and alcohol treatment services for adults on the site for 20 years.

For more information on the services available please CLICK HERE

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Police warn that Psychoactive Substances ban will increase use of the 'Dark Web'

Dealers of so-called 'legal highs' or New Psychoactive Substances could move to the "dark web" now that the New Psychoactive Substances Act as banned their sell on the high street, a senior police officer has warned.

The substances, which mimic the effects of traditional drugs like ecstasy and cannabis, have been banned from being supplied in shops and online stores. The possession and use of the substances such as Spice and Vortex are still legal however.

Commander Simon Bray, the National Police Chiefs Council's lead on New Psychoactive Substances, said those determined to get hold of the drugs might turn to illicit websites.

He said the new law will mean Britons can no longer stroll into a "headshop" and buy mind altering drugs "in a normal transaction - like going into Boots the chemist".

He told the Press Association: "Clearly, there will be some movement onto the dark net, where people find it lucrative to sell substances and where people are going to buy them. But, of course it is not going to be so easy for the average person to get hold of them. I can go on a website now using Google and there are about 100 different websites selling these things.

"I'm not so good at getting onto the dark web, I haven't got into bitcoins. I've got a credit card and I 'aint going to go on the dark web with that, thank you very much. That would put me off. I wouldn't find it as easy, so therefore it is going to put off a number of people like me."

The dark web is a largely untraceable area of the internet which does not show up on traditional search engines and had been used by criminal gangs who trade in drugs, guns and forged documents.

The blanket ban on legal highs has been branded unscientific and its implementation has been delayed by more than a month amid concerns it is unenforceable.

Ireland introduced a similar law five years ago. But while headshops openly selling the drugs closed down, use of the substances has increased and there have been relatively few prosecutions because of the difficulty of proving in court that a substance is psychoactive.

Experts have warned Britain will encounter the same difficulties and the ban will just drive use and sale of the drugs underground and into the hands of criminal gangs.

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