News in brief

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Big spenders

Drug users in the US spend an estimated $100bn annually on cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine, according to a White House-commissioned report from the Rand Corporation. Total expenditure is driven by a ‘minority of heavy users who consume on 21 or more days each month’, says What America’s users spend on illegal drugs, and while overall expenditure remained stable in the ten years to 2010, the amount spent on marijuana increased while that spent on cocaine fell – ‘consistent with supply-side indicators’.

Report at www.whitehouse.gov

Crimea call

The International and Eurasian networks of people who use drugs (INPUD and ENPUD) have issued a warning about the plight of more than 800 clients of opiate substitution programmes in Crimea. Russian president Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a bill to absorb the peninsula into Russia last month, putting Crimean drug users at the mercy of Russia’s ‘highly repressive drug laws and deeply punitive approach’ (DDN, February, page 6). The organisations are calling on the international community to put pressure on the Russian Federation to ‘to respect internationally accepted human rights compliant, public health approaches for people who use drugs and allow for the currently running OST and NSP programmes to continue to run in the Crimea.’

Have your say

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is holding an open meeting on 11 April where members of the public will be able to put questions and provide feedback on the council’s work.

Details at www.gov.uk/government/news/acmd-public-event-open-meeting-on-11-april-2014

Brain training

More training for health and social care professionals in recognising alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD) is needed, according to a report by Alcohol Concern Cymru. ARBD covers a range of conditions including Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome and – although it can be successfully treated if recognised early – is being under-diagnosed, says All in the mind. ‘When alcohol-related brain damage is on the radar, the focus is often on older street drinkers,’ said Alcohol Concern Cymru director Andrew Misell. ‘But staff on the front line have been seeing younger people, and other people who don’t fit the stereotype of a homeless dependent drinker, coming in with ARBD.’

Report at www.alcoholconcern.org.uk

Aisle have a large one

Displaying alcohol at the end of supermarket aisles increases sales by up to 23 per cent for beer, 34 per cent for wine and 46 per cent for spirits, according to research by Cambridge and East Anglia universities in partnership with MRC Human Nutrition Research. The studies were controlled for price, promotions and number of display locations. ‘Although we often assume price is the biggest factor in purchase choices, end-of-aisle displays may play a far greater role,’ said study co-author Professor Theresa Marteau.

Recovery cash

Capital funding worth £10m has been distributed to ‘recovery-orientated’ drug and alcohol services across England, Public Health England (PHE) has announced. Almost 70 awards were made, with amounts ranging from £3,500 to more than £870,000. ‘The successful projects range from smaller schemes such as those providing training opportunities to people in recovery, to large-scale schemes such as building new recovery centres,’ said PHE’s director of alcohol and drugs, Rosanna O’Connor. Among those receiving the money was Weston-super-Mare-based Broadway Lodge, which was awarded nearly £40,000 to upgrade its detox unit (DDN, November 2013, page 16). ‘We’re extremely grateful to receive this money from Public Health England and it will ensure a better quality of service for all our patients,’ said chief executive Brian Dudley.

Risky behaviours

Shifting trends in drug use among sections of the gay and bisexual community are causing ‘significant’ harm to physical, mental and sexual health, according to a new report from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The chemsex study was commissioned by the London boroughs of Lambeth – which has the highest prevalence of HIV in the UK – Southwark and Lewisham. ‘A vulnerable section of society is using new drugs in new ways that is putting them at serious risk,’ said report author Dr Adam Bourne.

Worrying words

Although alcohol consumption per person across the UK population has more than doubled in the last half-century, the trend ‘masks a still more concerning underlying pattern’, according to the latest report from the chief medical officer, with an increase in the proportion of the population abstaining from alcohol meaning that ‘the increase in consumption per non-abstainer’ is even higher. The report also includes sections on prisoner health and health and employment.

Annual report of the chief medical officer at www.gov.uk