September2 2020 | Page 5

News DDN EVERY DAY All the news, updated daily Home secretary ‘minded to’ explicitly exempt poppers from Psychoactive Substances Act The home secretary, Priti Patel, has written to the ACMD seeking its advice on formally exempting alkyl nitrates – or ‘poppers’ – from the 2016 Psychoactive Substances Act. There has long been confusion about the exact legal status of the substances, and as the lawfulness of their supply remains uncertain, the home secretary is “minded to remove this uncertainty by explicitly exempting” the substances from the act, she states. Although an initial proposed amendment to exempt alkyl nitrates from the Psychoactive Family focus Substances Bill was defeated, the ACMD later advised then drugs minister Karen Bradley that in their view the substances would still fall outside of the scope of the act as they did not have a direct effect on the central nervous system (DDN, April 2016, page 4). A 2018 Court of Appeal ruling, however, stated that substances that only have an indirect psychoactive effect could still be covered by the legislation. The home secretary’s letter also seeks the ACMD’s advice on the drivers of increasing powder cocaine use among young people and drug sales on the ‘dark net’. THE THEME OF THIS YEAR’S #STOPTHEDEATHS initiative is the role families can play in saving the lives of people at risk of overdose. The campaign, which was launched three years ago (DDN, September 2018, page 5), encourages people across Scotland to understand their role in helping to prevent overdose deaths. Although the figures are yet to be released, there are fears that 2019’s drug death toll for Scotland could once again be the highest ever. ‘The focus on families for this year’s Stop the Deaths initiative is welcome and timely,’ said CEO of Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD), Justina Murray. ‘We know families play a vital role in preserving and saving the lives of those at high risk of overdose and death, but this is often overlooked. This includes everything from meeting their basic needs for food and shelter, to supporting them to engage with treatment and recovery, and continuing to offer them enduring love, hope and connection.’ ‘Every fatal overdose can be prevented,’ added Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell. ‘With training and support, families can learn how best to support people when they are most at risk.’ ‘We know families play a vital role in preserving and saving... lives.' JUSTINA MURRAY The ACMD later advised... the substances would still fall outside of the scope of the act as they did not have a direct effect on the central nervous system. Hep C world first NHS TAYSIDE has become the world’s first region to effectively eliminate hepatitis C, with 90 per cent of patients diagnosed and 80 per cent of infected cases treated by the end of last year. NHS Tayside has diagnosed almost 2,000 people since testing began, and treated more than 1,800 – more than 90 per cent of the estimated prevalence of hep C, meeting the WHO’s elimination target 11 years early. The NHS Tayside project, which was developed in partnership with the University of Dundee, began in a single needle exchange and eventually led to a redesign of services with a focus on testing people who use drugs before they enter treatment. ‘If you can offer treatment at a very early stage, while people who are infected are still actively injecting – when they have contact with other people who inject and share equipment with other people – their chances of transmission disappear because they’re not infected any more,’ said consultant hepatologist Professor John Dillon. ‘It’s the idea of treatment as prevention.’ Getting such a high proportion of people treated was a ‘huge achievement,’ added Hepatitis C Trust chief executive Rachel Halford. ‘People who inject drugs often struggle to access treatment due to barriers like stigma around the virus and drug use. NHS Tayside has shown that it doesn’t have to be this way and that everyone can be treated for this virus. If services adapt to patients, everyone can clear the virus and we can make sure we leave no one behind.’ Local News Powerful pop-ups A series of pop-up performance videos have been created to mark International Overdose Awareness Day by BDP, Outside Edge, small performance adventures and Theatre Royal Plymouth’s ‘Our Space’ project. ‘Overdose has touched many lives,’ said Theatre Royal’s Sara Rhodes. smallperformance Joining up Phoenix Futures has launched a research partnership with Liverpool John Moores University. The aim is to ‘facilitate a more symbiotic relationship between research and practice’ and integrate emerging evidence into service delivery, says Phoenix. London calling Outside Edge Theatre Company is starting a free weekly drama group in Southwark for anyone affected by addiction issues. ‘You don’t need to have any experience of drama, you just need to be abstinent on the day of the workshop,’ say the organisers. http://edgetc. org/drop-in-drama/ WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM SEPTEMBER 2020 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 5