WHATS NEW? - May 2018

Admissions to hospital for drug-related mental health problems soar

CBD Oil Now Available on the High Street

Tens of millions of prescription drugs now on the black market

Xanax Use Increases Across UK

University to force students to sign contract promising not to take drug

Safety kit sees rise in drug needles returned in Cardiff

Huge Increase in Young People Smoking Crack

Clinic opens to help young people addicted to medicines bought online

Drugs gangs recruiting children from small towns, research reveals

Children of alcohol addicted parents to get help in £6m scheme

Bestival death: Louella Fletcher-Michie 'first to die from drug 2C-P'

Clubbers need access to places to test their drugs in UK towns and cities - especially at night, according to a new report.

New drug test to detect spice or mamba substance

Energy drinks: UK supermarkets ban sales to under-16s

Admissions to hospital for drug-related mental health problems soar

Soaring numbers of children, young people and pensioners in England are being taken to hospital after suffering serious mental disorders as a result of taking drugs, NHS figures reveal.

Hospitals are treating more than double the number of people for what the NHS calls “drug-related mental and behavioural disorders” than they did 10 years ago. The statistics record damaging changes to people’s mental states as a result of taking illicit drugs, such as cannabis and cocaine, and also from the use of painkillers, alcohol and solvents. Patients have needed urgent medical attention for acute intoxication due to drugs, and symptoms of both dependence and withdrawal from them, as well as psychotic disorders and amnesia caused by taking them. The numbers also include people who are delirious or exhibiting other signs of harmful effects of drug taking.

The latest data on people treated because of drug misuse, issued by NHS Digital, the health service’s statistical arm, shows that in 2016-17 hospitals in England admitted 82,135 people of all ages for these types of problems. That was 115% more than the 38,170 they treated as inpatients for such episodes in 2006-07.

The biggest rise has been among people in the decade after retirement. The number of 65- to 74-year-olds has soared by 502% over that time,

from 232 in 2006-07 to 1,397 in 2016-17. Numbers were also up among those aged 75 and over, from 183 to 559 – a rise of 205%.

Harry Shapiro, director of DrugWise, a drugs information charity, said the rises could be due to growing numbers of older people taking prescribed drugs to combat loneliness and depression. “It’s most unlikely that recreational drug use figures much among over-65s, so we must assume that these are probably psychiatric drugs of some description. That would chime with the significant rise in the number of prescriptions for antidepressants and also the continuing large-scale prescribing of tranquilisers.

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CBD Oil Now Available on the High Street

Health food chain Holland & Barrett has become the first high street store to stock medical cannabis oil in the UK.

According to the Cannabis Trades Association the number of cannabidiol (CBD) users has doubled over the past year skyrocketing from 125,000 to 250,000.

And, demand for the supplement has been met after Holland and Barrett started stocking a product by Dutch firm, Jacob Hooy, in March. A natural product used by many to ease symptoms of various ailments from joint pain and multiple sclerosis to anxiety and depression, CBD oil does not produce a high as it contains less than 0.2 per cent of the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol – as such, it is legal to buy and consume in the UK.

Since hitting Holland & Barrett’s shelves sales of Jacob Hooy’s CBD+Oil are up by 37 per cent as people have flocked to buy the 10ml bottles for just £9.49. On the brand’s website, it states that each bottle of the “100 per cent natural cannabidiol oil” contains around 240 drops.

The description also explains that the product has a “distinctive taste”, but that a small drink of water after taking the oil will take the taste away within 30 seconds.

Thanks to its success the retailer has confirmed that it is now planning to add a wider range of products to its selection over the Summer.

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Tens of millions of prescription drugs now on the black market

Criminal gangs have smuggled tens of millions of prescription-only drugs out of the UK's protected supply chain, a BBC File on 4 programme has discovered.

They tricked or bribed pharmacists and drug wholesalers to access almost 160 million tablets with a street value of up to £200m over a three-year period. Misuse of these anxiety and insomnia drugs is a serious public health concern, the medicines regulator says.

The Home Office says it is working with partners to help those addicted. "Tough enforcement is a fundamental part of the strategy and we are taking coordinated action to tackle illegal drug use alongside other criminal activity," an official added.

In some cases, the criminals used fake documents to pose as genuine dealers. But in others pharmacists were approached directly and offered payment to order and supply the drugs. An investigation by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) resulted in 41 arrests including five pharmacists, who have been suspended from practice. Twelve wholesale dealer licences have also been handed in or terminated.

An intelligence report seen by the BBC describes an illicit distribution network centred in the north west of England, running through the Potteries, to the Midlands and on to London. It says there are further investigations linked to organised crime groups in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Just three of the websites the gangs set up to sell the drugs had sales of £55m over a 12-15-month period. And, the MHRA report says: "One of the internet operations sold 15,000 packs of Zopiclone a day, indicating a daily net profit of £505,950."

The MHRA says it recovered more than two million tablets in one raid alone. And Police Scotland found 750,000 pills in the back of a van.

MHRA enforcement head Alastair Jeffrey said: "A typical example would be a wholesaler dealer or a pharmacist ordering vast amounts of these particular types of medicines on behalf of the criminal who would then sell them generally on the internet.

"They have a sales team, a distribution team - this is a huge business and there is a massive amount of criminal profit to be made.

"We have responsibility for regulating the supply chain, and it is our absolute priority to make sure that supply chain is secure."

Mr Jeffrey said some of the people who had bought medicines from the websites "are just general members of the public, holding down good jobs, getting on with their lives who have unfortunately fallen into this type of drug use".

"We are talking about thousands and thousands of people potentially that need some assistance," he added.

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Xanax Use Increases Across UK

Counterfeit Xanax pills laced has become a party drug among some young people. Now Public Health England is warning users they are "dicing with death".

"I was at a party when a friend shared it with me," says Kristello, a 19-year-old rapper from Birmingham, remembering the first time he took Xanax. The drug, also known by the name Alprazolam, is widely prescribed in the US to treat anxiety and can be obtained on private prescription in the UK. But among some teenagers and young adults in the UK it has become a popular recreational drug used illegally. Kristello says his addiction soon grew into a daily habit as he began taking one tablet a night.

"The high felt like it was very floaty, and any worries you had melted away," he told the BBC. "But what you have to take into consideration is what happens after you take Xanax, which is where the problem really starts."

Nine months ago, after deciding to come off the drug, Kristello struggled sleeping at night and experienced wrenching stomach pains, cold sweats and extreme paranoia. "It can be really bad on your mental health," he says. "You can experience blackout with memory loss. Your long-term memory can be affected as well."

Xanax has previously been glorified by hip hop artists, and is often featured in lyrics. In November 2017, the rapper Lil Peep was found dead after an overdose of Xanax mixed with fentanyl - a powerful synthetic painkiller. It is a lethal combination which, officials say, users risk being repeated when buying counterfeit Xanax online and through street dealers - because they cannot be sure how the drug has been mixed.

According to National Crime Agency (NCA) figures, 113 people have died using fentanyl in the last 12 months in the UK. "The danger we've got here is young people who are used to taking the drug [Xanax] who think they know what they are doing," says Tony Saggers, former head of drugs threat at the NCA. The great disaster is when these tablets are supplied between friends, and one friend kills another friend because they've sold them something without knowing what it was.

Pfizer, the company that developed Xanax as a prescription drug, said it was "alarmed" by the rise of counterfeit versions of Xanax that, it said, have been found to contain acid, heavy metals and even floor polish. A government spokesman said it was "taking coordinated action to tackle illegal drug use alongside other criminal activity. Law enforcement agencies continue to work with internet providers to shut down UK-based websites found to be selling prescription-only medicines illegally. Prescription-only medicines are potent and should only be prescribed by a doctor or appropriate healthcare professional."

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University to force students to sign contract promising not to take drugs

Students at the University of Buckingham (UB) may risk being expelled if they persist in taking substances on campus, officials have said, as it tries to become the country’s first drug-free university.

The announcement comes as the National Union of Students published a report called ‘Taking the hit: Student drug use and how institutions respond’ https://www.nusconnect.org.uk/resources/taking-the-hit-student-drug-use-and-how-institutions-respond urging universities to stop reporting students to the police for possession of drugs, after figures revealed that hundreds of incidents were reported to forces last year.

A report by The Sunday times also revealed a 42 per cent rise over two years in the number of students being disciplined by universities for drug use.

Sir Anthony Seldon, the UB vice-chancellor claimed that measures were not meant to be “punitive or repressive”, adding that universities were “failing their students on drugs and mental health”.

In a letter published in the same paper, he said: “A completely new approach is needed. Student lives are needlessly being lost and imperilled. Universities need to shake themselves up and take more responsibility for students in their care. Information about the harm that drugs could do should be everywhere – as ubiquitous as the warnings on cigarette packets. The University of Buckingham is working towards becoming Britain’s first ‘drug-free’ university.”

He added: “We plan to ask our students to sign a contract that makes it clear that they will not take drugs on university property, nor be under their influence when on university business.

“Drug-taking has no place at all in our vision of what a university is about. If students persist in taking drugs, they will be asked to leave. The focus with our students at Buckingham is to help them lead a fulfilling and meaningful life using natural and healthy approaches. Our aim is not to be punitive or repressive but to be compassionate and enlightened, helping our students learn how to be fully adult and responsible to themselves and to others. In this, drug-taking has no place.”

A new report by the NUS and Release charity found that in 2016-2017, of the 2,067 cases of student drug possession recorded across the country, 531 were reported to police and 21 were permanently excluded from university. It urged universities not to take such measures and urged them to play a more supportive role in dealing with the issue, arguing that mental health factors could play a part in some students’ decision to take drugs.

It also argued the use of sniffer dogs and searches on campus were “incredibly invasive and intimidating” and could cause high anxiety levels, after it emerged one in 10 of those who had used drugs said they had been searched on campus, based on a survey of 2,800 people. Zoe Carre, a policy researcher at Release, said reporting students to police was “archaic and harmful” and was likely to put people off seeking help.

The universities most likely to take disciplinary action including include fines, behaviour contracts, suspension and expulsion were Kingston and Nottingham, which disciplined 331 and 283 people, respectively, according to figures obtained.

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Safety kit sees rise in drug needles returned in Cardiff

Intravenous drug users are being given equipment which makes needles harmless in a bid to stop children getting hurt if they find them discarded in the street.

Safeloc kits encase used needles in hard plastic, trapping them inside and breaking the tip. They are being issued to thousands of drug takers at needle exchanges across Wales.

Cardiff drug service manager Leanne Bruford said more users were returning their needles to be safely destroyed. Charity CAIS, who run support services for drug users including the Living Room in Cardiff, welcomed the practical measure to prevent harm but said more needed to be done to treat the condition of addiction. The kits were first introduced in Cardiff after Butetown residents reported finding needles discarded in the streets, with concerns about children playing with them.

Ms Bruford, community drug manager at Change Grow Live (CGL) which provides drug services for Cardiff and the Vale, said there had been an increase in users returning needles since the introduction of the kit in July. In 2017-18, 34,684 needles and bins were issued to users at the area's needle exchanges - where people can get free equipment and confidential advice about safe injection practices. Of these, 66% were returned for safe disposal, up from 39% in 2016-17.

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Huge Increase in Young People Smoking Crack

The number of people seeking treatment for crack addiction has jumped by 23% in a year, from 2,980 to 3,657, according to the latest National Drug Treatment Monitoring System figures. This growth dwarfs the much smaller 3 percent rise seen the year before.

The surge in people presenting to services with crack problems specifically is made more stark when you consider the wider picture; it comes after a 3% fall in the overall number of individuals receiving treatment for alcohol and drugs – the largest drop seen over the last six years.

The increase in people seeking help for crack addiction over the last 12 months was seen across nearly all age groups, but perhaps most stark is the huge 30 percent spike in under-25s entering treatment for the drug, marking the first rise in crack presentations in this age group for a decade. Equally, the overall number of young adults seeking help with all types of drug and alcohol addiction has fallen by 45 percent since 2005/06.

These figures, unsurprisingly, sit alongside data that shows more people are taking crack today than in recent years. The latest estimate puts the number of users in England at 182,828, which translates to a 10 percent increase between 2011/12 and 2014/15. And more people are injecting the drug – up 18 percent over a decade. Police seizures of crack are also at their highest level since 2008, after a rise of 16 percent in a year from 4,718 to 5,484.

Crack’s comeback is being driven by a number of factors, but most crucial is the fact it's getting purer and cheaper. DrugWise says the purity levels for crack are "unprecedented", at an average of 74 percent – but informants suggest they could sometimes be as high as 90 percent. This degree of purity is also underlined as a contributing factor to the 16 percent increase in cocaine-related deaths (the powder and rock form aren't distinguished in the data from the Office for National Statistics) in England and Wales in a year.

Meanwhile, the price of crack has tumbled by 13 percent since 2007; a 0.2g wrap can be picked up for as cheap as £15 to £20 in some areas.

Dolly, 42, who had her first pipe – "on a Coke can" – after an Oasis gig at Manchester's G-Mex in 1997, and ended up using for 11 years solid, now works in the addiction tre £700 a day on the drug, and notes how the price of a rock of crack has remained unchanged for decades.

"If you look at inflation, crack is the only one that’s stayed the same price since the early-90s," she says. "The price of other drugs fluctuate, but crack has never fluctuated. It’s always consistently been the same price, regardless of how shit it is."

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Clinic opens to help young people addicted to medicines bought online

Dr Owen Bowden-Jones has opened the UK’s first clinic dedicated to tackling the consequences of the spiralling use for medicines bought illegally on the internet.

The service launches on Monday amid growing concern about addiction to such drugs: last week the government ordered Public Health England to examine why one in 11 patients was prescribed an addictive medicine last year, including benzodiazepines and opiods.

The psychological impact of drugs like these, bought online, has prompted Bowden-Jones to open the Addiction to Online Medicine (Atom) service in London: a free, easy-to-access clinic run by Central and North West London NHS foundation trust.

“The internet has really transformed the patterns of people’s drug use. It sanitises the buying of drugs,” says Bowden-Jones, a consultant psychiatrist. “There is something about the ability of the internet to deliver products to you in a timely, safe and predictable way that seems to have now extended to include prescription medicines.”

The growth of an online marketplace is changing the landscape of drug-taking in Britain. For many, getting hold of drugs no longer involves waiting for dealers on street corners or seeing a doctor for a prescription. Now people are buying them online in a matter of minutes. The phenomenon has seen a rapid increase over the past year, bringing with it new risks and obstacles to recovery.

“What we want to do is try to develop some expertise about this,” says Bowden-Jones. “There is a whole set of extra complications around online purchasing. The sort of age group that we see in the clinic spends a lot of time on their phones, so what you can’t do is

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Drugs gangs recruiting children from small towns, research reveals

County lines drugs networks are increasingly recruiting children in provincial towns to sell drugs rather than trafficking youngsters from London and other major cities, research shows.

An analysis of case work with children involved with the distribution networks, which connect inner city drugs gangs to small towns, has shown that most are now recruited in the area where distribution ends, with youngsters from the city more often used to transport drugs.

Jo Hudek, who is evaluating the St Giles SOS case work for the Home Office, told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on knife crime the increase in local recruitment was a problem for areas not well-equipped to deal with London-style gang crime. She said that of the 40 or so children supported by that particular project, who were picked up in Kent, the majority were local children. “There are still London children being trafficked down there with drugs for supply but it really shows that this is a business model and the commodity is drugs and money, it doesn’t really matter who is selling it,” she told the meeting.

Some, but not all, of the children involved were “stereotypical disadvantaged”, said Hudek. “And because they are in places that don’t have a lot of opportunities they see this as a real opportunity, it’s glamorous, and so they are easily groomed.

“They are probably cheaper because you are not having to pay them as much as a London child and also you don’t get as much overnight missing because they can do it in day trips.” Local children were less likely to stand out in white working class areas than black children trafficked from London, she added.

Det Insp Neil Watford, of Kent police, said dealers would pick up children with no police background. He gave an example of one child who became embroiled over an initial £5 cannabis debt that escalated until he went missing for several weeks.

“He was subjected to violence, threats and intimidation and eventually we located him in the Kent area sitting on 150 wraps of class-A drugs,” he said.

Kent was seeing a year-on-year increase in knife crime, as well as an increase in the number of children arrested for knife crime. “We are recovering more weapons, more knives in bedrooms, so it’s very much a growing issue,” Watford said.

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Children of alcohol addicted parents to get help in £6m scheme

Children whose parents are alcohol dependent will be offered help under plans announced by the government. The £6m package of measures is designed to help the estimated 200,000 children in England living with alcohol-dependent parents, offering rapid access to support and advice.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the consequences of alcohol abuse were “devastating for those in the grip of an addiction, but for too long the children of alcoholic parents have been the silent victims. This is not right, nor fair. These measures will ensure thousands of children affected by their parent’s alcohol dependency have access to the support they need and deserve.”

The programme will include rapid access to mental health services and support for children and their families where there is a dependent drinker; funding to identify and support at-risk children more quickly and early intervention programmes to reduce the numbers of children needing to go into care.

The government has also appointed Steve Brine as a dedicated minister for children with alcohol-dependent parents. Of the 200,000 children in England living with alcoholic parents, the NSPCC has reported a 16% rise in calls involving alcohol or drug abuse in recent years. The charity receives one call every hour related to drug or alcohol abuse.

Research shows that children of alcoholics are twice as likely to have problems at school, three times as likely to consider suicide and five times more likely to develop an eating disorder. More than a third of all serious case reviews for children involve a history of parental alcohol abuse.

The Labour MP Liam Byrne, the founder and chair of the cross-party group in parliament for children of alcoholics, welcomed the measures. We know as children of alcoholics that we can’t change things for parents, but we can change things for our country’s kids,” he said. “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s innocent victims of booze, the kids of parents who drink too much and end up scarred for life.”

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Bestival death: Louella Fletcher-Michie 'first to die from drug 2C-P'

A 25-year-old woman who was found dead at a music festival was the first person to die from taking the drug 2C-P, a court has heard. Louella Fletcher-Michie, the daughter of Holby City actor John Michie, died at the Bestival site in Dorset in September.

Ceon Broughton, 29, is charged with her manslaughter by gross negligence but has not entered any pleas. The case was adjourned for a pre-trial hearing on 20 July. Richard Thomas, defending, told Winchester Crown Court: "There have been no deaths from this drug before."

A post-mortem examination revealed Ms Fletcher-Michie died following the use of 2C-P and ketamine and MDMA. Her body was found in a wooded area on the edge of the festival site at Lulworth Castle.

Following her death, Mr Michie said the family had "lost an angel". Mr Broughton, of Island Centre Way, Enfield, London, is also charged with three counts of supplying 2C-P, a class A drug, at both the Bestival and Glastonbury festivals.

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Clubbers need access to places to test their drugs in UK towns and cities - especially at night, according to a new report.

Campaign group The Loop says deaths related to ecstasy and cocaine are at a record high. It believes many venues aren't equipped to deal with drug use but critics argue open testing encourages people to take illegal drugs. The Loop piloted similar testing at the Scret Garden and Kendal Calling.

Ceon Broughton, 29, is charged with her manslaughter by gross negligence but has not entered any pleas. People could drop off their samples and find out what they had. The drugs were also graded in terms of strength, so they would know the potency. Part of the successful pilot at festivals included the drug policy of '3Ps' - Prevent, Pursue and Protect - the report recommends rolling this out on a wider scale. The Loop says it's now discussing the possibility of drug safety testing in several UK towns and cities. It also plans testing at a greater number of music festivals this year.

"In order for this to work it requires police forces and councils to work together," says Professor Fiona Measham, who co-wrote the recommendations. "Clubs risk closure if there is a drug-related death but they also risk closure if they attempt to introduce harm reduction measures."

For more information: www.wearetheloop.org

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New drug test to detect spice or mamba substance

A blood test has been developed to detect a potentially dangerous chemical often found in ‘Spice’. Drug workers in Birmingham were sent an alert by Public Health England recently after a cluster of incidents involving the substance City Hospital in Birmingham said drugs taken by some "ill" patients contained a dangerous ingredient, 5F-ADB. The test will be offered throughout the NHS this month.

Synthetic drugs mimic the effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis.

Dr Jonathan Berg, director of pathology at the hospital, said that 5F-ADB is far more powerful than many of the other substances available. Up to 16 people have been brought in to the hospital over the past three months - the latest on Friday - with the new test, which has been developed over the last six months, being used to analyse substances believed to have been taken.

The test can identify six of the most common synthetic cannabinoids added to the drugs, including 5F-ADB. “This chemical is really very potent and is leading to very serious clinical incidents," Dr Berg said.

Drug workers were alerted by Public Health England on 27 March in a letter warning specifically of 5F-ADB in relation to the seven deaths. It can lead to immediate collapse, a coma, increased heart rate psychosis or even death.

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Energy drinks: UK supermarkets ban sales to under-16

Sales of energy drinks to children under 16 have been banned in most major UK supermarkets, amid concerns about high levels of sugar and caffeine.

Boots is also joining supermarkets such as Asda, Waitrose, Tesco and the Co-op in introducing the rule.

Retailers will limit sale of energy drinks containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre to under-16s. Co-op said it recognised the "growing concern about the consumption of energy drinks" among children.

Other supermarkets introducing the voluntary ban include Aldi, Lidl, Sainsbury's and Morrisons. Boots is the first retailer to partake that is not a supermarket. The Co-op, Aldi and Lidl implemented the change on 1 March, while Morrisons, Waitrose, Asda and Boots put the rule in place on 5 March.

A Boots spokesperson said: "Helping our customers to live healthier lives has always been our core purpose. We have listened to the growing public concern about young people consuming these high sugar and highly-caffeinated drinks."

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