The smoking rate in England has fallen to its lowest ever level, at below 17 per cent, according to figures from PHE. Last year saw 500,000 smokers successfully give up, with cigarette sales in England and Wales dropping by 20 per cent in just two years. ‘There is more help and support available now than ever before,’ said deputy chief medical officer Dr Gina Radford. ‘The introduction of standardised packs removes the glamorous branding and brings health warnings to the fore, and e-cigarettes, which many smokers find helpful for quitting, are now regulated to assure their safety and quality.’
Another ‘potential curative’ drug for people with hepatitis C is to be made available on the NHS, according to new guidance published by NICE. Elbasvir/grazoprevir has shown cure rates above 90 per cent in some patient groups, says the document, and ‘provides considerable health benefits to patients without some of the adverse side effects associated with earlier anti-viral treatments’, according to director of NICE’s centre for health technology evaluation, Professor Carole Longson.
Two leading drugs education charities are merging this month. Mentor UK, known for its work preventing alcohol and drug misuse among children and young people will join with Angelus, the only UK charity dedicated to highlighting risks from new psychoactive substances. The organisation will be called Mentor UK, with Michael O’Toole as chief executive. ‘This merger is a great match of expertise – it is going to give fresh impetus to the prevention agenda,’ he said.
STAND AND DELIVER
A three-year substance misuse delivery plan has been launched by the Welsh Government, including better collaboration between mental health and substance services and more work to reduce blood-borne virus transmission. ‘We want to ensure everyone can access the support and information that they need,’ said minister for social services and public health, Rebecca Evans. The country has also seen a 14 per cent increase in the distribution of take-home naloxone kits, according to figures from Public Health Wales. The kits were reportedly used in more than 430 poisoning events in 2015-16. Substance misuse delivery plan 2016-2018 at gov.wales; Take home naloxone 2015-16 at www2.nphs.wales.nhs.uk
CGL has issued more than 6,000 naloxone kits and successfully trained 5,500 service users, carers, family members and others in how to use them since February this year, the charity has announced. CGL is currently the only commissioned drug service in the UK to have a national approach to distributing the overdose-reversing substance. ‘Our commitment to distributing naloxone as widely as possible and to training people on how to use it correctly has resulted in 241 lives being saved,’ said CGL’s director of nursing and clinical practice, Stacey Smith. ‘We are committed to reducing drug-related deaths and naloxone plays a major role as part of an overall preventative package of care.’
A report calling for medicinal cannabis to be legalised has been issued by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform. Cannabis: the evidence for medical use is based on a seven-month inquiry, testaments from more than 600 patients and a review of international evidence. ‘Many hundreds of thousands of people in the UK are already taking cannabis for primarily medical reasons,’ said the group’s co-chair, Caroline Lucas MP. ‘It is totally unacceptable that they should face the added stress of having to break the law to access their medicine.’ Report at www.drugpolicyreform.net
The European Commission is proposing an EU-wide ban on MDMB-CHMICA, also known as Black Mamba. Nearly 30 deaths have been recorded in eight member states, says EMCDDA, with the substance – already banned in the UK under the Psychoactive Substances Act – also linked to incidences of violence and aggression.
Bodybuilders are increasingly turning to dealing steroids to fund their own use and ‘maintain their social status in the weightlifting community’, according to a report from Birmingham University. ‘While many government agencies and sport officials have suggested that substances are sold largely by organised crime groups for financial gain, the findings showed that the majority of performance and image enhancing drugs within bodybuilding subcultures were distributed by individuals for social reasons or to support their own training,’ it says. Social suppliers available at www.bcu.ac.uk
More than half of Welsh adults have had negative experiences in the last year as a result of someone else’s drinking, according to a report from Public Health Wales. Almost one in five had felt physically threatened, while 5 per cent had suffered actual physical violence and the same percentage had been concerned about a child’s wellbeing. ‘This report shows how alcohol can harm not just the drinker but also those around them,’ said the agency’s director of policy, research, and international development, Professor Mark Bellis. ‘Some of these harms are due to drunken violence but others result from accidents, threats or even financial problems when too much household income goes on one person’s drinking.’ Alcohol’s harm to others at www.wales.nhs.uk
A new support pack for commissioning specialist interventions for young people experiencing substance problems has been issued by PHE. ‘Patterns of drug and alcohol use by young people often change, which means that services need to be flexible and respond effectively to changing needs,’ says Young people – substance misuse JSNA support pack 2017-18. Available at www.nta.nhs.uk/uploads/jsna-support-pack-prompts-young-people-2017-final.pdf
Justice secretary Liz Truss has raised doubts about whether the wide-ranging prison reforms set out in the Queen’s Speech (DDN, June, pages 5 and 7; September, page 10) will now go ahead, telling a meeting of the justice committee last month that, ‘I am not committing to any specific piece of legislation at this stage’. Meanwhile, a report by the Prison and Probation Ombudsman has said there is ‘an unacceptable level of violence’ in English and Welsh prisons. Establishments should have a coordinated approach to identifying risks of bullying and violence, it says, including ‘the impact of new psychoactive substances and associated debt’. Learning lessons bulletin at www.ppo.gov.uk
Adfam’s annual Family Voices competition is now open, with a top prize of £150 and two runner up awards of £100. Friends and family who have lived through someone else’s substance misuse are invited to submit an original piece of writing or poem, with the winning entries read by a guest speaker at the charity’s carol concert on 1 December. ‘While it is often difficult to talk about this subject, it can be helpful to write about it, and entries are of a consistently high standard,’ says Adfam. Send your entry (up to 500 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 31 October.
TIME TO GET INVOLVED
A ‘global campaign week’ against the actions of Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte is being organised by The Asian Network of People who Use Drugs (ANPUD) and the International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD). Peaceful demonstrations will begin at Filipino embassies and consulates around the world from Monday 10 October, and people are also encouraged to help raise awareness on social media. More 3,000 people are estimated to have fallen victim to Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ since he took office in May (DDN, September, page 4).
Full details of how to take part at www.inpud.net. See news focus, page 8.
Concerns that decriminalising drugs or introducing legally regulated markets would automatically lead to increased levels of use are ‘poorly supported by empirical research’, according to a report from Transform. Overall levels of use should also not be considered as ‘an accurate indicator of levels of drug-related harm’, argues Will drug use rise? Exploring a key concern about decriminalising or regulating drugs. Available at www.tdpf.org.uk
Drinking levels among European teens are falling but there are challenges around new substances and ‘new addictive behaviours’ such as online gambling, according to the European school survey project on alcohol and other drugs (ESPAD). While illicit drug use is stable it is ‘still at high levels’, says the report, which is based on a survey across 35 countries in partnership with EMCDDA. Report at www.espad.org