WHATS NEW? - May 2016

26th May: the 'New Psychoactive Substances Act' becomes law

New child mental health support service launched

More than 400 a month arrested for drug driving since new laws introduced: 50% of motorists stopped are testing positive

Drug dealers using Instagram and Tinder to find young customers

'Societal' issues behind Welsh rugby drugs problem, says UKAD chief

New study examines the effect of ecstasy on the brain

Scottish Scientists create database to detail explosion in New Psychoactive drugs

Mindfulness therapy works as well as anti-depressant drugs, major new study finds

Viagra-style drug 'sold illegally' at Southampton 'legal high' shop

Man sentenced for N-bomb drug supply

Street opioids are getting deadlier with many containing Fentanyl

Poppers don't actually fall under the Government's legal highs ban, ACMD says

Over a third of employees know or suspect their colleagues have a drug problem

'New Generation' MDMA: more popular, more potent and more problems

Drug-related deaths reach highest level on record in Scotland

Former head shop drug 'Snow Blow' linked to HIV surge in Dublin

New legal chemicals causing internal 'car crash' injuries



26th May: the 'New Psychoactive Substances Act' becomes law

A special editorial piece by Liam Watson, Director of drugstraining.com

The Government's attempt to tackle to issue of so called "legal highs" (or the preferred term of New Psychoactive Substances) which will see a 'blanket ban' on selling, production and importation of these new substances has been delayed as it is still unclear amongst many people (including some MP's) what is covered by the term 'psychoactive'. The original date for the ban was due to be 6th April but Teresa May has announced that 26th May will see the new legislation become law.

A key reason for a rethink of the the law came after the Conservative MP Crispin Blunt made a speech admitting using the party drug 'poppers', and denounced attempts by the government to ban the substances as "foolish". Poppers are especially popular among gay men, and used to prepare for sex and enhance sexual pleasure. The proposed laws would criminalise the sale of the drug, but not those who buy it.

Blunt, who is the chairman of parliament's foreign affairs select committee, was speaking during a debate on the government's psychoactive substances bill. The draft legislation has been criticised for containing too broad a definition of psychoactive substances. Retailers, drugs companies and even church groups have raised concerns about the unintended consequences of the bill, which defines the target of the ban as products that cause psychoactivity in humans.

It should be mentioned of course that our two favourite 'legal highs' – drugs that cause hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, chronic and painful addictions and countless social problems – our old friends alcohol and tobacco will remain exempt. Clearly they are not 'psychoactive enough' to be included in the new law and subsequently of course then illegal to supply, produce or import. After a short inquiry into the proposed law, the home affairs select committee produced a report which concluded that poppers should not be banned since, according to the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs, their misuse was "not seen to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a societal problem". The report also concluded that nitrous oxide (known as Laughing Gas Or NOS) should also be reviewed by the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs to consider whether it should be controlled under the existing laws.

The Home Office Minister Karen Bradley said the act was now almost ready to come into action in its entirety in the next couple of weeks. She added that it was now very important that professionals worked together "to ensure the readiness of all the activity necessary to enable the smooth implementation of the legislation across the UK". According to the act

psychoactive substances are considered consumed if "the person causes or allows the substance, or fumes given off by the substance, to enter the person's body in any way".

It is very important to emphasize that whilst the new law will clearly put an end to the open selling of these new legal drugs over the counter in your High Street, so called 'Head Shops' and market stalls, the law does NOT ban the use or possession of the substances. So for example, whilst it may be slightly less convenient for some young users to access 'Spice' or 'Black Mamba' – the use and possession of the drug will still remain legal. So for the end user, who may already have many sources for accessing the drug already to hand it will remain 'business as usual'.

It is worth noting as well that these new legal drugs such as the synthetic cocaine products, powerful synthetic opiods, hallucinogenics and counterfeit benzodiazepine drugs are being accessed by people from all walks of life including many professionals and middle aged people. Research indicates that for this huge range of adult NPS users some 95% of the drugs are being bought online and delivered - often in huge quantities. Currently synthetic stimulants such as Synthacaine are being reduced from £16 a gram down to £1 in an attempt to 'beat the ban'. For many this will lead to the 'stockpiling' of the drug which can then encourage much more frequent and heavy usage, that we saw back in 2010 when it was announced that Mephedrone was to be banned. Many drugs services and psychiatric units saw a significant rise in those with Mephedrone addiction, drug induced psychosis and even suicide in the year following the ban of the drug in February 2010.

Whilst in theory the New Psychoactive Substances Act does extend to the selling of NPS online many of the sites are already advertising 're-launches' after the ban. The implications being that the sites will make use of the burgeoning 'dark web' to sell their substances and encourage users to use the increasingly commonplace 'Crypto Currency' known as Bit Coins. As covered in a later piece social media sites such as Instagram and Tinder are also being used to 'hook up' local suppliers with dealers of both NPS and Class A drugs such as cocaine. Type in #MDMA and browse potential suppliers.

In the parliamentary sub notes to the Pyschoactive Substances Bill looking at the financial implications of this new law it estimates that the average cost for criminal justice agencies will be £8,900 per defendant. It estimates that there will be FIVE prosecutions per year throughout the UK with an additional cost to the Government of just £44,000!

The Government will be able to say 'look we're doing something about it' and yes 'head shops' on the High Street selling bags of herbs and powders 'Not For Human Consumption' will be a thing of the past. But aren't we forgetting the most important thing here – the health and wellbeing of those who do decide the try these new drugs?

The UK law is based on the so called 'blanket ban' that came in in the Republic of Ireland a couple of years ago. The European commission's Eurobarometer survey found that NPS use in Ireland is the highest in the EU and that the use of legal highs among 16-24 year olds has risen. Asked whether they had used a legal high or NPS in the last year, 22% said yes in 2014, compared with 16% in 2011.

Liam Watson, 20th May 2016

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New child mental health support service launched

A new support service for children with mental health issues has been launched in a bid to tackle rising concerns about mental illnesses in young people.

The Department for Education and Department of Health have launched a new interactive resource called 'MindEd'. The resource aims to encourage concerned children and their families to seek help. The website directs visitors to sections including 'risky behaviour', 'eating disorders', 'sexual orientation and gender' and 'being a parent in the digital age' for expert advice. To view the resource please go to www.minded.org.uk.

Research by MIND has found that 850,000 children aged 5-16 in the UK are currently living with a mental health issue. This means that in a typical school classroom, at least three children will be affected.

Of adults currently living with a mental health condition, more than half began to experience symptoms before the age of 14. Clinicians argue that early intervention is key in identifying and addressing issues before they shape young peoples' lives negatively.

Nick Harrop, Media and Campaigns Manager at YoungMinds, a charity specialising in young peoples' mental health, told The Independent that the resource was essential at a time when many other options for young people are becoming harder to access. He said: "We know that early intervention is crucial but many local authorities have repeatedly had their budgets slashed on things like social workers, support programmes for parents, educational psychologists and targeted mental health services in schools.

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More than 400 a month arrested for drug driving since new laws introduced: 50% of motorists stopped are testing positive

Drug drivers are being arrested at the rate of more than 400 a month since the new drug-driving offence enforced by roadside 'drugalysers' was introduced at the beginning of March, new figures reveal.

But the figures show a wide variation in arrest rates with some police forces apprehending scores of offenders, and others such as Gwent Police arresting none. The statistics were obtained by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) under a Freedom of Information Act request to all police forces in England and Wales.

The responses from the forces cover a range of dates from March 2 2015, when the new offence of drug-driving came in, to the end of May 2015 but have only just been released.

The Metropolitan Police recorded the highest number of drug-driving arrests, with 214 in the period March 2 to May 11. Next was Northumbria Police with 97 arrests, then Cheshire with 70, Sussex with 58 and south Yorkshire on 55.

At the opposite end of the scale, details from Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Gwent showed these police forces had yet to make any arrests. For some reason, not all forces are using the kits which cost £18 each compared to just a few pence for a breathalyser testing for alcohol.

In the one month Christmas period of December 2015 – January 2016 nearly 2,000 were prosecuted as part of a nationwide campaign. This time over 50% tested positive for illegal drugs.

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Drug dealers using Instagram and Tinder to find young customers

Drug dealers are branching out to platforms and apps, popular with young people, such as Instagram, Tinder, Kik and shopping app Depop to sell their wares. These can be anything from prescription medication and research chemicals to recreational drugs.

The process is simple. On Instagram, using the social platform convention of hashtagging, a potential customer trawls through the app looking for phrases like #weed4sale or the names of the drugs themselves (#mdma, #mephedrone etc). The customer then contacts the owner of the account and the deal moves along through direct messages. In the case of Tinder, potential customers can swipe through profiles until they find a dealer and match with them.

Buyers can either meet face-to-face or pay online and have their purchases posted to them. While online payments such as bitcoin and pre-paid gift cards such as Vanilla Visa are encrypted, more traceable measures such as unattributed bank transfers and PayPal are also used.

Online dealers mostly sell their drugs as "research" even though pills are put in bottles or blister packs and powders in capsules."Despite packaging them specifically for human consumption, vendors attempt plausible deniability when it comes to what they sell," says Moe, a former user who bought legal and illegal drugs online from the age of 16.

There are few firm statistics about who's buying drugs over social media but interviews I did suggests young people are a market. Despite the risks – which include getting scammed, getting caught and having no guarantee about strength or composition of drugs – Moe says the internet is popular among teens who have no personal connections to drug dealers and users. In particular, he says, research chemicals that are legal for medical or clinical trial purposes are being bought online by teenagers who don't otherwise have access to illegal drugs.

Not everyone who buys drugs online is doing it to get high. I have spoken to young people in the LGBTQ community who buy hormones for gender transitioning online because it bypasses restrictions and bureaucracy in the NHS.

"The system doesn't guarantee what trans people need, and illegal underground behaviour becomes the way to get it, which in turn sustains systemic problems ... including sex work to pay for the drugs," explains sociologist Bilal Zenab Ahmed. As far as possible, social media providers act swiftly to block or restrict links that could lead to the sale or purchase of drugs, and repeat offenders are banned, but the onus is on platform users.

"Promoting the sale of, or selling marijuana and other drugs is against our community guidelines," says an Instagram spokesperson. "We encourage anyone who comes across violating content to report it via our built-in reporting tools."

Anonymous mobile chat app Kik says it doesn't "tolerate any illegal activity" and "cooperates with law enforcement requests when appropriate". It says it will shut the accounts of users when misuse comes to its attention. Despite an explicit and extensive list of prohibited items, vendors on the popular buy-and-sell network Depop have still managed to list prescription drugs like ritalin or dexamphetamine, and unlicensed "smart drugs" like modafinil. Depop says it has a no-tolerance rule to restricted sales and reacts immediately when it identifies or is alerted to items or activities against its guidelines.

The common thread is that these social platforms and websites rely on their millions of users to report inappropriate content. Even the police rely on reporting from the public, encouraging people to contact their local force or the cybercrime unit if they see suspicious behaviour on the internet.

Until image detection technology is sophisticated enough, vetting images before they are uploaded would be highly resource intensive and counterintuitive to a social platform selling itself on being instant or quick.

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'Societal' issues behind Welsh rugby drugs problem, says UKAD chief

The head of UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) says a "societal problem" could be the cause of steroid drug use in Welsh rugby. Recently, Bargoed RFC's Adam Buttifant, became 12th Welshman serving facing a drugs band for two years. Bargoed rugby player Adam Buttifant has been suspended from all sport for two years after testing positive for an anabolic steroid.

Formerly of Newport Gwent Dragons' under-16 development squad, the 19-year-old failed an out-of-competition test.UKAD confirmed Buttifant's two year ban .Nicole Sapstead, Ukad's chief executive said: "Adam Buttifant is a young rugby player who had a promising playing career ahead of him. Athletes must follow the principal of 'Strict Liability', which means they are solely responsible for any banned substance found in their system, whether or not there is an intention to cheat.

"This can be challenging for an athlete - they have to be aware of the danger to their career at all times and make sure they carry out the correct and proper research before taking any supplement or medication.". UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said: "We are seeing intelligence indicating that there is a big steroid problem particularly within Wales generally, a societal problem. Maybe that inevitably starts to encroach on lower levels of any sport."

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New study examines the effect of ecstasy on the brain

Researchers from the University of Liverpool have conducted a study examining the effect ecstasy has on different parts of the brain.

Dr Carl Roberts and Dr Andrew Jones, from the University's Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, and Dr Cathy Montgomery from Liverpool John Moores University conducted an analysis of seven independent studies that used molecular imaging to examine the neuropsychological effect of ecstasy on people that use the drug regularly.

A number of studies have compared ecstasy users to control groups on various measures of neuropsychological function in order to determine whether ecstasy use results in lasting cognitive deficits. It is common, however, for ecstasy users to use other drugs alongside the substance, and therefore the Liverpool team aimed to discover whether this had any bearing on the impact of the drug.

The nerve pathway that is predominantly affected by ecstasy is called the serotonin pathway. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is synthesized, stored, and released by specific neurons in this pathway. It is involved in the regulation of several processes within the brain, including mood, emotions, aggression, sleep, appetite, anxiety, memory, and perceptions. They found that ecstasy users showed significant reductions in the way serotonin is transported in the brain. This can have a particular impact on regulating appropriate emotional reactions to situations.

Dr Roberts, said: "The research team conducted the analysis on seven papers that fitted our inclusion criteria which provided us with data from 157 ecstasy users and 148 controls. 11 out of the 14 brain regions included in analysis showed serotonin transporter (SERT) reductions in ecstasy users compared to those who took other drugs.

"We conclude that, in line with animal data, the nerve fibres, or axons, furthest away from where serotonin neurons are produced (in the raphe nuclei) are most susceptible to the effects of MDMA. That is to say that these areas show the greatest changes following MDMA use.

"The clinical significance of these findings is speculative, however it is conceivable that the observed effects on serotonin neurons contribute to mood changes associated with ecstasy/MDMA use, as well as other psychobiological changes. Furthermore the observed effects on the serotonin system inferred from the current analysis, may underpin the cognitive deficits observed in ecstasy users. The study provides us with a platform for further research into the effect long term chronic ecstasy use can have on brain function."

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Scottish Scientists create database to detail explosion in New Psychoactive drugs

Doctors struggling to deal with potentially harmful new psychoactive substances (NPS) have begun collecting the pills when patients are at casualty. The drugs are then being analysed by the Scottish Police Authority's forensic services in the hope of creating an archive of new drugs, which will provide a reference point for medical professionals and those working in police forensics.

Wales has had a similar well established project in place called WEDINOS (www.wedinos.org) for around two years. Drugs that are found, ceased or bought in Wales are sent to the toxicology department at Llandough Hospital in Penarth. The results and further information about the substances are then placed on th WEDINOS website. The project is funded by run by Public Health Wales.

Tom Nelson, director of forensic services at the SPA, said NPS now accounted for around 10 per cent of all drugs being analysed, up from just 1 per cent a few years ago. "NPS is something we're keen to get involved in from a police perspective," he said. "We're very keen to understand the impact the drugs are having on the individual as well. We're analysing thousands of drugs every year. Over the last three or four years we've noticed a significant increase in the percentage of those drugs which are NPS. Because they are new and only seem to stay around for a short period of time, you almost have to stay ahead of the game in relation to identifying the drugs."

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Mindfulness therapy works as well as anti-depressant drugs, major new study finds

Therapy based on the traditional concept of 'mindfulness' works as well as some anti-depressant drugs, according to a major new study. Inspired in part by Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness involves training the brain to deal with negative emotions using techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and yoga.

Some critics have claimed mindfulness techniques can bring on panic attacks and lead to paranoia, delusions or depression. But the new study – the largest-ever analysis of research on the subject - found mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) helped people just as much as commonly prescribed anti-depressant drugs and that there was no evidence of any harmful effects.

People suffering from depression who received MBCT were 31 per cent less likely to suffer a relapse during the next 60 weeks, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Professor Willem Kuyken, the lead author of the paper, said: "This new evidence for mindfulness-based cognitive therapy … is very heartening. While MBCT is not a panacea, it does clearly offer those with a substantial history of depression a new approach to learning skills to stay well in the long-term."

He stressed that different people required different treatments and mindfulness should be viewed as one option alongside drugs and other forms of therapy.

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Viagra-style drug 'sold illegally' at Southampton 'legal high' shop

An unlicensed Viagra-style drug is being sold illegally at a shop in Hampshire, a BBC investigation has found.

HedHigh in St Mary's Road, Southampton, has been selling Kamagra - an imported drug for erectile dysfunction - to customers over the counter. These types of drugs are only allowed to be sold on prescription in the UK.

Kamagra, which contains sildenafil citrate that is also found in Viagra, is not licensed or regulated in the UK. Experts at Reading University tested the product and found it contained double the dose of sildenafil citrate prescribed legally by doctors.

Prof Laurence Marius Harwood said: "There's quite a lot more in one of those sachets than in the [Viagra] pill. The pills generally contain about 50 milligrams, the sachets contain twice as much. It's twice as strong."

During secret filming, a shop worker at HedHigh sold a BBC reporter the product for £10 and told him it was a "legal high". "And it's completely like…legit? I guess it's been tested…" the reporter said. "Yep, yep, of course," the shop worker said.

Alastair Jeffrey, head of enforcement at Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: "It's concerning to see a medicine, which is an unlicensed medicine, on display in a shop, which somebody could just come in and buy. You really don't know where this medicine has come from, you don't know how it's been stored.

"Worst-case scenario, you could be on certain blood pressure medication, and you combine it with sildenafil and your blood pressure could drop catastrophically, and potentially you could even die," said Dr Richard Roope, from The Whiteley Surgery, Fareham.

"It's not people that are interested in your health, it's people that are interested in taking your money," Mr Jeffrey said of those supplying the product.

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Man sentenced for N-bomb drug supply

A man who supplied drugs that led to a student being killed in a "drug-crazed frenzy" in York has been sentenced. Samuel Donley, 20, was jailed for stabbing Liam Willer after experimenting with a hallucinogenic drug in July last year.

Keiron Turley, 20, of Malden Road, Liverpool, was ordered to serve 200 hours of unpaid community work at York Crown Court earlier. He pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.

North Yorkshire Police said Turley had supplied the drug, 25i-NBOMe, which is also known as N-bomb, to Mr Miller. Donley is serving a jail term of six years and eight months after pleading guilty to his manslaughter at Leeds Crown Court.

Detectives said Donley, who was 19 at the time, killed his close friend "in a horrific and violent attack" at his home on Hamilton Drive, in York, during a psychotic episode brought on by the drug.

During his trial, the court heard Donley felt he was in a dream and had to stab Liam - who he thought was a skull - in order to return to the real world. The jury heard Mr Miller, from Terrington, near Malton, was attacked on the night of 27 July while Donley's parents were away.

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Street opioids are getting deadlier with many containing Fentanyl

While hard stretched health officials battle increasing mortality associated with heroin and prescription opioids, an even more dangerous group of street drugs has appeared on the scene. In the U.S, South Eas Asia and now the U.K authorities are reporting a spike in overdoses of fentanyl, an opioid 25 to 50 times stronger than heroin; in Canada, four pounds of a drug called W18, which is 100 times stronger than fentanyl, were recently seized.

These drugs — which act so quickly that they can be used in anesthesia— are now being made in clandestine Chinese and American labs. Fentanyl and similar derivatives are then sold either as heroin, in the form of fake Oxycontin pills, or scarily, sometimes even in pills made to look like anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax.

The problem has caught law enforcement officials and politicians off guard. But to anyone who has studied the history of drug policy, it was completely predictable.

It's known as the "iron law of prohibition" or, as activist Richard Cowan, who coined the phrase, put it: "The harder the enforcement, the harder the drugs." It's been demonstrated throughout the history of drug policy: the more authorities target a class of drugs, the more potent and dangerous the versions on the street become. Under alcohol prohibition, bootleggers preferred to sell whiskey and gin, not beer and wine; during the cocaine years, dealers switched from selling powder that was used typically for snorting to selling crack, which can only be smoked, a much more addictive way of using the drug.

From dealers' business perspective, then, switching to fentanyl makes total sense: the smaller the amount needed to get high, the tinier each package is and the lower the risk of getting busted. But from a public health perspective, it's a disaster.

At least prescription drug misusers who get pharmaceuticals from doctors receive drugs of a known dose and purity, far from the case with street heroin or pills. When users substitute street fentanyl, it can cause an overdose so quickly that there is little time to intervene and save a life. (Pharmaceutical forms of fentanyl exist, but the kind found on the street tends to be illegally produced). While heroin overdoses tend to take several hours before they are deadly, fentanyl can kill so fast that people often die with a needle still in their arm.

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Poppers don't actually fall under the Government's legal highs ban, ACMD says

Poppers are so harmless and have such limited effects they do not actually fall under the Government's ban on legal highs, the Government's top statutory authority on the regulation of drugs has said.

Ministers believed they had banned poppers as part of their Psychoactive Substances Act, but later said they would consider unbanning them after an outcry by parts of the gay community.The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs however said that despite what ministers believed when they passed the new law, they had not banned poppers.

"The ACMD's consensus view is that a psychoactive substance has a direct action on the brain and that substances having peripheral effects, such as those caused by alkyl nitrites, do not directly stimulate or depress the central nervous system," the council said in a report to ministers.

"In the ACMD's view, alkyl nitrites ("poppers") do not fall within the scope of the current definition of a "psychoactive substance" in the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016.

"Consequently, the ACMD does not see a need for an exemption under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016."

The council also restated its 2011 assessment that Poppers' "misuse, within the terms of section 1 of the Act, is not seen to be capable of having 'harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem'".

The Council was commissioned by the Government to look at the substance's relationship to the Psychoactive Substances Act in February. The ACMD is established in law as the main Government authority on drugs.

In January of this year Home Office minister Mike Penning said that the Government "recognises that representations have been made to the effect that 'poppers' have a beneficial health and relationship effect in enabling anal sex for some men who have sex with men, amid concern about the impact of the ban on these men".

He said the Home Office would consider "whether there is evidence to support these claims and, if so, whether it is sufficient to justify exempting the alkyl nitrites group".

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Over a third of employees know or suspect their colleagues have a drug problem

From finding cocaine in toilets to photos of employees smoking cannabis, employers are grappling with substance abuse in the workplace. A survey of 1,000 respondents by employment law specialists, Crossland Employment Solicitors, found that over a third (35%) of employees know or suspect that their colleagues have a drug problem or take illegal substances either during or outside work.

Over 60% complained that mood swings, missed deadlines and calling-in sick are just some of the ways it's affecting team performance.

The study also found that 20% of employees confirmed that they take, inject, or smoked illegal substances during the weekend and holidays while 12.5% said they take illegal substances every week.

Beverley Sunderland, managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors, said: "We were surprised by the number of people who know or suspect their colleagues have a drug problem and the multitude of ways they have had to cover for their colleagues' performance.

"There has been a noticeable shift in recent years in how the majority of employers handle substance abuse, from previously treating it as a disciplinary issue towards a more supportive approach where it is treated like an illness. However, all organisations should have their own detailed policy in place and clearly communicate it to employees. Depending on the type of job, employers also have legal obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act, The Transport and Works Act and The Misuse of Drugs Act.

"In my experience, substance abuse in the workplace cuts across all industry sectors, ages and jobs – from the highest paid professions to employees on minimum wages. But regardless of the job, any employer should point out the dangers to anyone they know is affected and provide them with proper encouragement and support to seek help."

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'New Generation' MDMA: more popular, more potent and more problems.

MDMA (aka Ecstasy/Mandy or Molly), along with its dance music soundtrack, is enjoying a resurgence with a new generation of clubbers.

For two years there has been a resurgence in MDMA use among young people. in the past 12 months it is estimated that more than one in 20 16-to-24-year-olds tried the drug, a 37% increase on the year before, or 95,000 more people. Consumption of other drugs, including cocaine and LSD, has also gone up in this age group, but it is ecstasy that has seen the most significant increase. After years of decline, the drug is back to its highest level in over a decade.

No one, from clubbers to researchers, seems surprised to hear this. The clubbers in south London are blase about the news: "Around half of my friends take drugs," shrugs one. "It's not a lifestyle, it's just a temporary thing," says another.

Of course, a drug like ecstasy will always be linked with dance music – for many, it exploded into the public consciousness with the the second summer of love and the birth of UK rave culture in the late 80s and early 90s. This renewed affinity for ecstasy is being felt across youth culture. "I don't know if you could call it a new summer of love," says Wheeler. "But there's a lot of people getting high, weekend-in-weekend-out, going to nightclubs, festivals and free parties, enjoying rave culture and having a really good time with their friends."

London-based dealer Dave has been capitalising on this for six years, selling MDMA (the active ingredient in ecstasy, sold in powder form) to a client list that mainly consists of "creative types" in their 20s and 30s. He can make up to £700 on a good weekend. "Maybe there's a new wave of people, a new wave of raving … that's a younger thing," he says. "But England and young people have just loved pills and MD for a long time. The laws relaxed, we got all these late licence clubs and the war on drugs has never really worked."

A harm reduction charity called The Loop (www.wearetheloop.co.uk.) The Loop, is run by Professor pf Criminology Dr. Fioma Measham conducts tests on drugs as well as offering advice and support at clubs and festivals. They have been present at Manchester's Warehouse Project for the last two years and have more recently partnered the club Fabric in London. Both venues have seen clubbers overdose in recent years; in 2013, 30-year-old Nick Bonnie died at the Warehouse Project, while Fabric nearly faced closure in December after several drug-related deaths. This partnership ties into concerted efforts from both parties to prevent further tragedy – drug testing services in clubs, as well as a rapid alert system to let users know when a dangerous drug is on the market, could save lives.

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Drug-related deaths reach highest level on record in Scotland

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has risen to its highest level since records began.

The National Records of Scotland report revealed 613 people died as a result of drugs in 2014. A director of a Church of Scotland social care group said the rise was "related" to government cuts.

The Scottish government said drug deaths continued to particularly affect an "ageing" group of users with a history of drug use. The figure of 613 deaths represents a 16% increase since 2013, and is the first time in three years the number has gone up. More than half of the deaths were either blamed or partially blamed on heroin or morphine. Methadone, the prescribed heroin substitute, was involved in 214 cases.

Calum Murray from CrossReach said alcohol and drugs partnerships were struggling "due to increasing demand for their services while central government funding diminishes". He added: "It would appear to be related that less funding for treatment leads to more deaths. I am greatly saddened by these figures because behind every one of these statistics is a tragic back story for families who merit great sympathy and understanding."

A Government spokesman said funding provided by the Scottish government to alcohol and drug partnerships for drug treatment services was £30.2m in 2012-13, and has been £30.4m in the three subsequent years.

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Former head shop drug 'Snow Blow' linked to HIV surge in Dublin

The Director of Public Health in Dublin has set up a team of experts to examine the recent increase in HIV cases among injecting drug users in the city, and to look at a likely link with the former head shop drug known as 'Snow Blow'.

A surge in HIV cases in the capital came to light earlier this year. Data from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre has now revealed the full extent of the problem with 16 cases of newly-acquired HIV infection among Dublin drug users since June 2014.

The public health team dispatched to investigate the issue includes HIV physicians, GPs providing services for the homeless and drug users, addiction clinicians and a clinical virologist. An investigation looking at the pattern of the disease is also under way – and the HSE and other organisations have launched an intensified awareness campaign to highlight the risks posed by unsafe injecting and unsafe sex.

Experts who work with habitual drug users in Dublin believe the rise in the availability of Snow Blow is leading to an increase in the frequency of injections. According to the HPSC:

"Clinicians from the drug services are concerned that the increase is linked to injection of a synthetic cathinone PVP, street name Snow Blow, with consequent more frequent injecting, and unsafe sexual and needle sharing practices. This has mainly been seen in chaotic drug users, who report polydrug use, and are often homeless."

Drugs like Mephedrone and MDPV are also being sold as Snow Blow in the capital – and Tony Duffin of the Any Liffey Drug Project says his team first noticed an increase in the availability of the substance in September of last year.

"In our experience at Ana Liffey, people injecting stimulants typically inject more often than those injecting heroin," Duffin said.

As more injections take place, the risk of HIV and other blood-borne diseases increases. According to Duffin:

"Unfortunately, there are no simple solutions – this is a complex problem. People injecting drugs can be hard to reach, can have a combination of problems like mental health difficulties and homelessness, and can often find it difficult to access mainstream services. It can be difficult to motivate people to get tested and treated, due to the chaos of their lifestyle and due to the understandable fear of being diagnosed with an illness like HIV."

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New legal chemicals causing internal 'car crash' injuries

Users of new psychoactive drugs are being admitted to hospital with injuries normally suffered by car crash victims, a senior doctor has warned.

Professor James Ferguson, a consultant in the emergency department at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, said that medics doctors were becoming increasingly concerned about the long-term effects of the substances on patients.

Four men in their 30s were admitted to the hospital over the past few weeks with muscle breakdown which could cause tissue to move into the bloodstream, leading to liver or kidney failure and potentially death. The medical condition is more commonly seen in survivors of road accidents or patients who have been crushed during the collapse of a building.

Prof Ferguson said tests have been carried out on patients admitted to the hospital after taking legal highs.

Enzyme test results of 300 or under would be expected from patients with healthy muscle - but one man returned a result of 167,000 after taking psychoactive substances.

He said: "We are seeing some really ridiculously high levels. If you are using these legal highs again and again, you have to know what the long-term effects are going to be. This is a significant workload for us just now and it is a regular workload.

Obviously I am worried about the people who we see at the hospital. But I am also worried about those who use legal highs who we don't see."

The surgeon said new psychoactive substances (NPS) – were often taken by people with a history of using illegal drugs. Medics have even been treating patients in their 50s coming into the hospital suffering from the effects of taking unregulated legal highs.

Prof Ferguson said legal high users were being admitted to hospital with varying conditions, including the potentially fatal serotonin syndrome where excessive nerve cell activity can cause confusion, agitation and heart problems.

Some of these patients end up in intensive care and while others are given fluids and observed for a few hours before they are released. The consultant said he fears that people believe the substances are safe to take because they appear on the shelves in "professional" packets, but do not know how their body will react because they are unregulated.

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