News in brief

Methamphetamine use grips Asia Pacific

Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) – a category that includes amphetamine, methamphetamine, methcathinone and ‘ecstasy group substances’ – were the primary drug of use for 70 per cent of people in treatment in the Asia Pacific region in 2011, according to UNODC. The drugs are now either the first or second illicit drug of use in 13 of the 15 countries surveyed for Patterns and trends of amphetamine-type stimulants and other drugs: Asia and the Pacific 2012. Reported methamphetamine use had grown in 11 countries, with seizures of methamphetamine in pill form increasing more than five-fold since 2007 and crystalline methamphetamine seizures nearly doubling since 2009. The growth in use and availability, as well as the increasing involvement of international organised crime groups, posed a ‘growing threat to both security and public health’, said UNODC regional representative Gary Lewis.

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Testing times

NICE has issued guidance to help ensure that more people at risk of hepatitis B and C infection are tested, covering commissioning, awareness raising and contact tracing. Around 90 per cent of the 12,642 hepatitis C infections diagnosed in the UK in 2011 were acquired through injecting drugs. ‘What seems to be a general ignorance about the diseases and the potentially serious con­sequences of not being tested and treated is contributing to both a lack of offer of testing by services and the low uptake of testing among those at increased risk of infection,’ said NICE’s director of public health, Professor Mike Kelly. ‘It is also contributing to the stigma surrounding hepatitis B and C.

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Fast tracked

Just over 90 per cent of people entering drug treatment in Scotland in the third quarter of 2012 did so within three weeks of seeking an appointment, the Scottish Government has announced, meeting its HEAT (Health improvement, Efficiency, Access to services and Treatment) target. Waiting times in 2007 stood at more than a year. 

 Shifting chairs

Health Protection Agency (HPA) chair Professor David Heymann has been confirmed as chair of Public Health England’s advisory board. HPA will become part of Public Health England from April.

Revolution in the air

The Ministry of Justice has published its Transforming rehabilitation consultation document, setting out further proposals for its ‘rehabilitation revolution’ (DDN, December 2012, page 5). These include payment by results as ‘an incentive to focus on rehabilitating offenders’ and ‘opening the majority of probation services to competition’, a move branded ‘purely ideological’ and ‘astonishing’ by assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, Harry Fletcher.

Consultation at until 22 February.

 Guiding light

A series of pocket guides on substance issues has been launched by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). ‘Social workers are not expected to be specialists in substance use in the same way alcohol and drug specialists are not expected to be social workers, but we do still need to know enough to confidently ask about substance use and its effects on our clients and families,’ said chair of BASW special interest group on alcohol and drugs, Dr Sarah Galvani.

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 Road review

A ‘state of the art’ review on driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol and medicines has been published by EMCDDA. The review summarises the findings of more than 50 reports compiled as part of the DRUID project, the largest ever EU study on the subject. Around 30,000 people are killed on Europe’s roads each year, with alcohol estimated to be responsible for around a quarter of the deaths. EMCDDA has also recently published ‘harm reduction overviews’ for all EU member states as well as Norway, Turkey and Croatia. Reports available at

Tough love

Parents who drink more are unlikely to practise the kind of parenting that averts hazardous drinking in their children, according to a Demos report. Parenting style can have a ‘significant impact’ on children’s drinking behaviour, with the more a parent drinks the less likely they are to practise the ‘tough love’ parenting – combining warmth with discipline – regarded as the best protection against excessive drinking in the young (DDN, September 2011, page 5).

Feeling the effects at