News in brief

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A QUIET DRINK

Much of the UK’s alcohol consumption is ‘moderate and social’, according to the latest study by the University of Sheffield’s alcohol research group. In the two years to 2011 almost half of ‘drinking occasions’ involved ‘moderate, relaxed drinking in the home’, says the study – which is based on the alcohol diaries of 90,000 people – although ‘pre-loading’ remains a significant issue. ‘Far from the stereotypes of binge Britain or a nation of pub drinkers, we find that British drinking culture mixes relaxed routine home drinking with elements of excess,’ said senior research fellow John Holmes. Study at http://bit.ly/1niN56t

CRYSTAL CLEAR

A new report on MDMA in Europe has been issued by EMCDDA. Recent changes in Europe’s MDMA/ecstasy market looks at the ‘resurgence’ of the drug and wider availability of high-strength tablets and crystals. While the average MDMA content of pills in the 1990s and 2000s was between 50 and 80 mg, reported averages are now closer to 125 mg, it says. Document at www.emcdda.europa.eu

mdmaSTREETS AHEAD

The Recovery Street Film Festival is looking for submissions for this year’s competition, the third since its launch (DDN, June 2014, page 20). Anyone with personal or family experience of recovery from a drug or alcohol problem is invited to submit a film of up to three minutes in length, with the winning entries to be shown in venues across the country. The films can help ‘show others they aren’t alone in their journey and motivate them to make changes to their lives’, said last year’s winner Ceri Walker. Full details at www.recoverystreetfilmfestival.co.uk

HEP HELP

WHO has updated its guidelines for the screening, care and treatment of people with chronic hepatitis C infection to include a number of new medicines approved since publication of the original document. Revised guidance at http://bit.ly/1QrBUVr

HEP GAP

Doctors in the UK, US and Australia are less likely to diagnose hepatitis C in their patients than those in other countries, according to a survey by the World Hepatitis Alliance. Fewer than 16 per cent of people in the UK were offered testing after describing hep C symptoms to their doctor, compared to 69 per cent in China. Findings at www.worldhepatitisalliance.org

LEGAL CHALLENGE

Around 60 per cent of deaths related to ‘legal highs’ also involve other drugs or alcohol, according to analysis of figures by ONS. ‘When more than one drug is mentioned it is impossible to tell which was primarily responsible for the death,’ it says. The median age for deaths is 28, compared to 38 for drug misuse deaths generally, with five out of six deaths among men. Deaths involving legal highs in England and Wales: between 2004 and 2013 at www.ons.gov.uk

CHEMICAL BALANCE

The government has issued updated guidance on the licensing of precursor chemicals – substances with legitimate commercial uses but which can also be used in the manufacture of illicit drugs. The regulation covers more than 20 chemicals, divided into three different categories. ‘It is necessary to recognise and protect the legal trade in these substances, while at the same time sdf manifestdiscouraging their diversion for illicit purposes,’ says the Home Office. Documents at http://bit.ly/1SMHur4

NEW DIRECTION

Decades of arresting and prosecuting people with substance problems has ‘failed to tackle the root cause’ of dependency, says the Scottish Police Federation’s (SPF) 2016 manifesto. Although the SPF stresses that it is not advocating legalisation or decriminalisa­tion, the document states that courts should be free to impose mandatory participation in health and education programmes, with criminal sanctions reserved for those ‘preying on the vulnerable and peddling misery’. Programme for policing 2016 – 2021 at www.spf.org.uk

CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENTS

NICE has issued new guidance on the safer use of controlled drugs like methadone, morphine and diazepam. Designed to help professionals navigate ‘complex legislation and regulations’, the guidance also includes a list of practical recommendations for storage, disposal, record keeping and prescriptions. The aim is to ‘support organisations and individuals to minimise the potential harms associated with these medicines by having robust systems and processes in place’, said chair of the guideline development group, Tessa Lewis. Guidelines at www.nice.org.uk 

CANADIAN CANNABIScanadiancannabis

Canada will introduce legislation in spring 2017 to legalise and regulate marijuana, the country’s health minister Jane Philpott told the UNGASS in New York. The legislation would ensure ‘we keep marijuana out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals’, she stated. ‘While this plan challenges the status quo in many countries, we are convinced it is the best way to protect our youth while enhancing public safety.’ www.canada.ca