DDN May2021 May 2021 | Page 5

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Europol : Europe ' s drug trade more violent than ever

The use of violence in the illegal drugs trade has ‘ escalated notably in recent years ’, according to Europol ’ s European Union serious and organised crime assessment – EU SOCTA 2021 . Competition between suppliers has intensified , leading to an increase in both the frequency and severity of violence , it says .

The SOCTA , which is published every four years , identifies shifts in serious and organised crime activity based on analysis of thousands of cases and intelligence provided to Europol . The COVID-19 pandemic and ‘ potential economic and social fallout ’ could create ideal conditions for criminal organisations to thrive and expand , it warns , with serious and organised crime posing a greater threat than ever before . ‘ A key characteristic of criminal networks is their agility in adapting to and capitalising on changes in the environment in which they operate ,’ it states . ‘ Obstacles become criminal opportunities .’

Prescribe exercise not pills , says NICE

PEOPLE WITH CHRONIC PRIMARY PAIN should be offered a range of treatments to help manage their condition , says new guidance from NICE , rather than being started on drugs such as benzodiazepines or opioids . Chronic primary pain is defined as pain lasting more than three months and where the cause is unclear – pain caused by an underlying condition such as arthritis or ulcerative colitis is known as chronic secondary pain . The guideline emphasises the importance of shared decision making and ‘ putting patients at the centre of their care ’. Treatments known to be effective in managing chronic primary pain include exercise , cognitive behavioural therapy ( CBT ) and acceptance and commitment therapy ( ACT ).
People who have been prescribed drugs for chronic primary pain are not being asked ‘ to simply stop taking their medicines ’ without being provided safer alternative options , stresses NICE . Anyone prescribed drugs not recommended in the guideline should ask their doctor to review the prescription ‘ as part of shared decision making ’. Chronic pain ( primary and secondary ) in over 16s at www . nice . org . uk
Around 40 per cent of criminal networks are active in drug trafficking , the report states , with the production and distribution of drugs by far the EU ’ s largest criminal business . The scale of money laundering from drug supply and other activities has also been previously underestimated , it adds , with launderers establishing a ‘ parallel underground financial system ’ and using ‘ any means to infiltrate and undermine Europe ’ s economies and societies ’.
Global manufacture and seizures of cocaine remain at record levels ( DDN , July / August 2019 , page 5 ), with purity of the drug at retail level also the highest ever recorded . More criminal networks are moving into the huge European market for cocaine , says the report , attracted by higher prices and lower risks than in North America . ‘ Latin American criminal networks are expected to continue collaborating with international EU-based criminal networks ,’ the report states . ‘ In the EU , high cocaine availability , low
' More criminal networks are moving into the huge European market for cocaine ... attracted by higher prices and lower risks '
wholesale prices and a high level of purity are expected to remain features of the market in the short term . The booming cocaine market has entailed an increase in the number of killings , shootings , bombings , arsons , kidnappings , torture and intimidation . The nature of the violence appears to have changed – a growing number of criminal networks use violence in a more offensive way .’ EU SOCTA 2021 at www . europol . europa . eu

Nationwide naloxone awareness

A NATIONAL NALOXONE and overdose awareness campaign has been launched using posters of people personally affected by overdose and who now carry naloxone themselves . The billboards are being displayed across London as well as in Birmingham , Bristol , Cardiff , Edinburgh , Glasgow and Manchester .
The campaign highlights the importance of making naloxone available to anyone at risk of opiate overdose – or likely to witness one – as well the need to properly understand overdose risks , with everyone featured in the campaign having been trained in overdose prevention . ‘ What this campaign demonstrates beautifully through its anti-stigma approach is the human face of people with real lived experience ,’ said Release executive director Niamh Eastwood . ‘ It is this humanity that is often ignored by politicians , the media and other agencies who seek to dehumanise and “ other ” this vulnerable population , and this allows for their lives to be seen as expendable . This has to end – we must recognise that stigma kills .’
See feature , page p12
Local News
SPACE TO CREATE Manchester-based charity Portraits of Recovery ’ s Sounds at the Edges project is bringing together people in recovery and local contemporary artists for a series of creative workshops using accessible materials and processes . ‘ Engaging with making in this way can play a vital role in wellbeing for us all ,’ said creative producer Jenny Walker . portraitsofrecovery . org . uk
DESTINATION HOLYROOD Harm reduction activist Peter Krykant – who made national headlines after setting up a mobile consumption room in a van ( DDN , November 2020 , page 5 ) – is standing as an independent candidate for Falkirk East in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election . ‘ The most startling aspect after record deaths in 2014 and 2015 was the Scottish Government cutting budgets for alcohol and drug partnerships , and since then drug deaths have doubled ,’ he told the Falkirk Herald . ‘ As the only candidate ever to run for Holyrood elections with an open background of mental health issues , addiction and street homelessness , I feel that I could hold the government to account to make sure we don ’ t ever again make these dreadful decisions , which have caused so much pain for thousands of families right across Scotland .’