National News, September 2016

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END THE KILLINGS

UNODC executive director Yury Fedotov has condemned the ‘apparent endorsement of extrajudicial killing’ of suspected drug offenders in the Philippines by president Rodrigo Duterte, stating that it ‘does not serve the cause of justice’. Last month more than 300 NGOs signed an open letter asking UN drug control bodies to call for ‘an immediate stop’ to the killings, around 1,900 of which have been recorded since Duterte took office in May. Known as ‘Duterte Harry’ and ‘the punisher’, the president has encouraged vigilante action against drug users and dealers as part of his pledge to ‘eradicate crime’ in the country within six months. ‘This senseless killing cannot be justified as a drug control measure,’ said IDPC executive director Ann Fordham.

 

CRYPTO CASH

The UK has the second highest number of online drug vendors, at 338, according to a report from the Rand Corporation – less than half the US total of 890 but higher than Germany’s 225. Total drug revenues on ‘cryptomarkets’ in January 2016 were estimated at between $12m and $21m, says the document, suggesting that they remain ‘niche’ marketplaces compared to the estimated $2.3bn monthly offline drug market in Europe alone. The report finds ‘some evidence’, however, that drugs sold on the dark web are providing stock for offline dealers. ‘The evidence on the full impact of cryptomarkets remains inconclusive,’ said co-author Stijn Hoorens, with some arguing that they reduce violence from the drug supply chain but others believing they offer a ‘new, often young, consumer base easy access to drug markets’. Internet-facilitated drugs trade at www.rand.org

 

HEP HOPE

Access to hepatitis C treatment is improving, according to PHE’s annual figures, with 2015 treatment rates up 40 per cent on the previous year, alongside access to newer drugs. Around 160,000 people in England are living with the virus, says Hepatitis C in the UK: 2016 report. ‘It’s early days, but with more patients being tested and improved treatments, there is genuine hope that we are seeing an impact on the number of deaths from hepatitis C related end-stage liver disease and liver cancer,’ said publication lead Dr Helen Harris. Available at www.gov.uk

 

CUSTODY CONCERNS

Deaths in prison custody in the 12 months to June 2016 were up 30 per cent on the previous year, at 321, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice. Self-inflicted deaths rose by 28 per cent, self-harm incidents by 27 per cent and assaults on staff by 40 per cent, spelling out the ‘urgent need’ for prison reform according to the Howard League’s director of campaigns, Andrew Neilson. ‘Prisons are not only becoming more dangerous, they are becoming more dangerous more quickly,’ he said. ‘The high levels of violence and deaths should shame us all, and the new secretary of state for justice and her ministers must set out concrete plans to reduce them.’

Safety in custody statistics bulletin at www.gov.uk. See feature, page 10.

 

DARK DATA

Hospital admissions for drug poisonings have risen by more than 50 per cent in a decade, according to HSCIC figures. There were 14,280 admissions with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs in 2014-15, up 57 per cent on 2004-05, says Statistics on drug misuse: England 2016, with 45 per cent of admissions among 16 to 34-year-olds. There were almost 75,000 admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental health and behavioural disorders, up 9 per cent on the previous year. Figures at www.gov.uk

 

HEADS DOWN

More than 330 retailers have either closed down or stopped selling NPS since the controversial Psychoactive Substances Act came into force in May, the government has announced. Nationally, 24 ‘head shops’ have closed and a further 308 have stopped selling the substances, while 186 people have been arrested. ‘It’s still early days but the police enforcement approach combined with edu­cation and support services for users is helping to reduce the damage that misuse of these substances can cause in communities,’ said National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for psycho­active substances, Commander Simon Bray.

 

HIV WARNING

The decline in new HIV infections in adults has stalled, says a UNAIDS report, with infection rates now rising in some regions. Eastern Europe and central Asia saw a 57 per cent increase in annual new infections between 2010 and 2015, states The prevention gap. Although more than half of these were among people who inject drugs, allocation of resources for prevention are still ‘falling far short’ of what is needed warns the agency. ‘We are sounding the alarm,’ said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé. ‘If there is a resurgence in new HIV infections now, the epidemic will become impossible to control.’ Report at www.unaids.org

 

DUAL FAILINGS

People who misuse drugs or alcohol and also experience mental health issues are being ‘denied access to proper treatment’, according to a Turning Point report. NHS services are not set up to support multiple needs and people are consequently ‘falling through gaps’ in care, says Dual dilemma: the impact of living with mental health issues combined with drug and alcohol misuse. ‘So often people with overlapping mental health and substance misuse issues are labelled “hard to reach” when it’s the services that are hard to access,’ said Turning Point chief executive Lord Victor Adebowale.

Report at www.turning-point.co.uk