News in brief

Opium increase

Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose by 7 per cent to more than 220,000 hectares in 2013, according to UNODC figures, with opium production this year potentially up by 17 per cent and prices falling as a result. ‘We cannot afford to see the long-term stability of Afghanistan – and the wider region – derailed by the threat of opiates,’ said UNODC chief executive Yury Fedotov.

2014 Afghanistan opium survey at www.unodc.or

Naloxone alert

A patient safety alert on the use of naloxone has been issued by NHS England, where the drug is used to provide pain relief following surgery. There is a ‘risk of distress and death from inappropriate doses of naloxone in patients on long-term opioid/opiate treatment’ says the warning, with the NHS receiving details of three patient safety incidents – two fatal – resulting from failure to follow British National Formulary (BNF) guidelines.

More information at

On the radar

Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust’s RADAR (Rapid Access to Alcohol Detoxification Acute Referral) service has been named non-age specific psychiatric team of the year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The service takes referrals from 11 acute hospitals, with a 97 per cent successful detox rate on its eight-bed ward. ‘Our RADAR ward is the first of its kind in the country and we are hugely proud of the service and the exceptional team who run it,’ said the trust’s director of nursing and operations, Gill Green. 

Carer questions

A ten-minute survey on professional training and development and the needs of carers has been launched as part of the Recovery Partnership/Alcohol Concern review of alcohol services.

The survey can be found at until the start of next year. 

Online anxiety

A new online learning tool on anxiety disorders has been launched by NICE, aimed at drug and alcohol teams, mental health professionals and GPs.

Available free at

Costing it out

A new online survey on drug prices and drug spending has been launched by 3D Research. British adults who’ve used cannabis or other illegal drugs in the last year are invited to take part, with all responses completely anonymous and confidential.

Survey at

NICE nalmefene

NICE has published its formal guidance recommending nalmefene, a drug that helps reduce cravings for alcohol in heavy drinkers (DDN, November, page 4). The drug, also called Selincro, is now available on prescription. ‘We are pleased to be able to recommend the use of nalmefene to support people further in their efforts to fight alcohol dependence,’ said director of NICE’s health technology evaluation centre, Professor Carole Longson.

Recovery cash

PHE has announced £10m of capital funding for recovery-focused services, with providers and local authorities invited to apply for a share of the pot. ‘An outstanding range of exciting and innovative recovery-focused projects received funding last year,’ said PHE’s director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco Rosanna O’Connor. As DDN went to press PHE released a new report, Drug treatment in England 2013-14, which showed drug recovery rates were slowing and that ‘there is a continuing need for increasingly tailored approaches to support a range of complex needs,’ said O’Connor.

Nitrous notes

New guidelines detailing the enforcement options regarding nitrous oxide have been issued by the Home Office. Aimed at local authorities and police, Guidance on restricting the supply of nitrous oxide for recreational use lists the uses and risks of the substance alongside the different legislative options.

Document at 

SMART move

Former Alcohol Research UK chair, Professor Robin Davidson, has been appointed interim chair of UK SMART Recovery, formerly SMART Recovery UK. ‘I’m pleased to report that it is business as usual,’ said Davidson of the name change. ‘UK SMART Recovery remains extremely grateful to the partners, volunteers, and staff for their continued support and commitment. People who have benefited from the programme will continue to benefit from unhindered access to SMART meetings and services as this transition is being implemented.’