Drink and Drugs News DDN July_August 2019 - Page 4

News ‘BIASED’ CLASSIFICATION FUELLING DRUG PROBLEM, SAYS COMMISSION BIASED HISTORICAL CLASSIFICATION OF PSYCHOACTIVE SUBSTANCES has been a significant contribution to the world drug problem, according to a report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP). While drug classification remains the ‘cornerstone’ of the UN Conventions underpinning international drug control, it continues to be influenced by ideology, political gains and commercial interests, says Classification of psychoactive substances: when science was left behind. The international classification of drugs now has little or no correlation to scientifically assessed harms and needs to be ‘urgently reviewed’, the document states. While drugs should be classed according to their potential for dependence and other harm this is ‘not the case today’, it says. The fact that substances such as alcohol are ‘culturally important’ means they are legally available, while the strict prohibition of others leads to ‘tragic consequences’ such as executions, organised crime and the spread of blood-borne viruses. The international community needs to recognise the ‘incoherence and inconsistencies’ in the drug scheduling system, it says, and launch a critical review. The commission is calling on governments to ensure that their classification systems are pragmatic and based on science and evidence, and also allow for ‘responsible legal regulatory models’ to control drugs. ‘The international system to classify drugs is at the core of the drug control regime – unfortunately that core is rotten,’ said GCDP chair and former president of Switzerland, Ruth Dreifuss. ‘Some drugs were evaluated up to eight decades ago – which does not represent current knowledge – and others have never been evaluated.’ Report at www.globalcommissionondrugs.org Professor Chris Whitty has been appointed as the new chief medical officer for England WHITTY OFFICER Professor Chris Whitty has been appointed as the new chief medical officer for England, the government has announced. Professor Whitty is currently chief scientific advisor for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and professor of public and international health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He replaces Dame Sally Davies, who oversaw the introduction of strict new alcohol guidelines of 14 units a week for both men and women (DDN, February 2016, page 4). 4 | drinkanddrugsnews | July/August 2019 people smoke – could be avoided by eliminating tobacco use, according to a WHO report. This includes 90 per cent of lung cancers, says European tobacco use – trends report 2019. ‘There is a huge potential to improve health by implementing policies that we know are effective, such as increasing taxation, using plain packaging, banning advertising and eliminating exposure to second-hand smoke,’ said WHO Europe’s programme manager for tobacco control, Kristina Mauer-Stender. Report at www.euro.who.int PREVALENT PROBLEMS ‘The international system to classify drugs is at the core of the drug control regime – unfortunately that core is rotten’ RuTh DREifuss TRIPLE THREAT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE aged over 40 in treatment for opiate use has tripled in little over a decade, according to ACMD. The number has risen from approximately 25,000 in 2006 to more than 75,000 last year. However, the number of under-30s in opiate treatment has fallen from around 60,000 to just 13,000 over the same period. ‘This ageing cohort is likely to dominate future demand on substance misuse facilities, which is why more needs to be done now to help these people access services that meet their needs,’ said ACMD chair Dr Owen Bowden-Jones. ‘Government, commissioners and services need to urgently re-assess how to best manage the complex needs of this ageing group.’ Ageing cohort of drug users at www.gov.uk DEADLY PRODUCT ALMOST ONE IN FIVE PREMATURE DEATHS from non-communicable diseases in the European region – where nearly 210m SIXTY PER CENT OF BRITISH PEOPLE know someone with an addiction problem, according to a YouGov survey commissioned by Action on Addiction. More than two thirds also believe there should be more support for people with substance issues, and 70 per cent that there should be more support for their families. ‘This poll highlights the widespread and far-reaching impact of addiction,’ said Action on Addiction chief executive Graham Beech. ‘Unfortunately, this comes at a time when society’s ability to address the problems associated with addiction is diminishing and people are finding it more and more difficult to access the treatment they need.’ STUBBED OUT BEVERLY HILLS CITY COUNCIL in California has voted unanimously to prohibit the sale of all tobacco products from January 2021. Although hotels will continue to be able to sell tobacco to guests, all other businesses will be subject to the ruling, making it the most restrictive tobacco ban in the US. LANGUAGE MATTERS JOURNALISTS NEED TO ADD ‘DEPTH AND NUANCE’ to their reporting of drugs issues, says a report from Phoenix Futures and Pulsar. This could include making it clear that ‘not all drugs are the same’ and expanding on the ‘environmental context in which problematic drug use thrives’, such as social exclusion, homelessness and poor mental health. Social media users also need to remember the effects that stigmatising language can have, says Care to share: social media conversation about addiction, recovery and stigma, which studied almost 200,000 public messages from Twitter, online forums and blog channels between December 2018 and January 2019. ‘Whilst we do not wish to police the use of language, we urge people to consider the potential negative impact of language on vulnerable people,’ it states. Report at www.phoenix-futures.org.uk. See feature, page 6 www.drinkanddrugsnews.com