WHATS NEW? - June 2019

Cocaine use doubles in Britain in five years and purity levels at record high

Increasing numbers of University Students using Social Media to access drugs

Teachers face ‘unjustified’ drug and alcohol tests

We can't halt drug trade with arrests, says crime agency chief

Suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism linked to more middle-aged deaths than heart disease

More adults seeking support for alcoholic parents

Drugs before sex more common in UK than in Europe or US – study

Even one drink a day increases stroke risk, study finds

Mental illness and trauma blamed for rising drug deaths



Cocaine use doubles in Britain in five years and purity levels at record high

Cocaine use in Britain has more than doubled in five years and purity of the drug has reached a record high, an analysis of waste water has shown.

The analysis, carried out by forensic scientists at King’s College, London, shows London and Bristol are in the top five cities with the highest use of the Class A drug in Europe, alongside Barcelona, Antwerp, Zurich and Amsterdam.

London is one of the few cities in Europe where consumption of the drug is almost as high during the week as at weekends. The analysis also suggests more than one in every 50 people in London take the drug every day.

Dr Leon Barron, a forensic scientist at King’s College, London who led the research, told The Telegraph that the analysis gives a comprehensive understanding of how much cocaine is being consumed by the population. “It’s been steadily rising,” he told the newspaper.

“I understand that purity has also risen mainly through increased supply and production in Latin America. There are cartels operating in the UK to offload that excess supply,” he said.

Concentrations in waste water are 900 milligrams per 1,000 of the population per day, which rose from 392 milligrams per 1,000 in 2011, according to the analysis.

Earlier this month, researchers at Kings College London, in collaboration with the University of Suffolk, found cocaine present in 100% of the freshwater shrimp samples tested in British waterways, and ketamine, pesticides and other chemicals were also widespread.

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Increasing numbers of University Students using Social Media to access drugs

The link between drugs and tech was recently explored in a 2019 study called #DrugsForSale, conducted by researchers from Royal Holloway, the University of Liverpool and Griffith University. They interviewed 350 users, whose average age was 18 years-old, and found the most popular app for buying drugs was Snapchat, with 76% of survey participants listing it as their preferred medium, while 21% opted for Instagram. Dating apps like Tinder and Grindr were also cited as popular choices, as were the messaging apps Whatsapp and Telegram.

The study found that many participants viewed the photos and videos of the drugs on offer as proof enough that the substances were legitimate. Many believed that the digital communication was all encrypted and therefore protected from law enforcement intervention. However, the researchers also compiled a table of security flaws for each social media app: Snapchat’s unopened photos are stored on servers and the company is also required to comply with any law enforcement requests; Whatsapp’s privacy policy allows information to be shared with Facebook and third-party advertisers, which is also the case with Instagram. It’s very possible that those deals might leave an online footprint somewhere.

Social media apps still seem to be the safe, accessible middle-ground for many students when it comes to picking up their drugs. Sara, 20 from the University of Liverpool, agrees. “Loads of dealers broadcast what they’re selling on Whatsapp so it goes out to all contacts. They post a menu with loads of emojis.” she says. Sara hasn’t used the dark web but says some friends “buy in bulk” because it’s cheaper. “Most people are really wary as they think it’s dangerous, but one friend I know loves it because all the drugs are customer-reviewed, like Amazon.”

Some UK universities have stepped up their drug deterrent policies in the face of the evolving drug economy. In an attempt to become the UK’s first “drug-free” university, the University of Buckingham recently announced plans to force students to sign a contract pledging not to take drugs on campus.

But some institutions are focusing on harm reduction techniques instead. Newcastle University lifted their zero-tolerance ban on campus drugs in 2015, replacing it with drugs testing and medical amnesty for anyone seeking healthcare from illegal actions. The University of Birmingham recently announced a three step awareness program for its students, covering alcohol, policy and drug education whilst also offering free drug testing kits. Similarly, the University of Manchester runs a £2.50 drug testing service from their students’ union.

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Teachers face ‘unjustified’ drug and alcohol tests

Teachers face being subjected to alcohol and drugs testing at work without any justification and without appropriate safeguards, a teaching union conference heard this afternoon.

Even teachers who have simply eaten a bread roll, performed routine dental hygiene or legally taken mind-altering drugs could be affected, union members were told.

The introduction of “random” and so-called “with cause” alcohol and drugs tests is being planned by some local authorities in Scotland, heard NASUWT Scotland members at their annual conference, despite reservations being expressed by the union and other professional bodies about them.

There is also a lack of information for employees about how the results will be used representatives at the conference in Glasgow were told.

Speaking to a motion on the issue, outgoing president Eddie Carroll said that teachers who had legally consumed “more than coffee” in Amsterdam cafes might still test positive a month later and be blamed unfairly if a pupil had an accident in class.

He also expressed concern that teachers could fall foul of tests having taken over-the-counter medicines, such as flu remedies, with council policies stating that two positive tests within a two-year period will lead to automatic disciplinary action.

He added that consuming some foods, such as poppy seed rolls, had the potential to lead to a positive drugs test, while mouthwash posed a similar risk.

He also expressed concern that teachers could fall foul of tests having taken over-the-counter medicines, such as flu remedies, with council policies stating that two positive tests within a two-year period will lead to automatic disciplinary action.

He added that consuming some foods, such as poppy seed rolls, had the potential to lead to a positive drugs test, while mouthwash posed a similar risk. Mr Carroll also cited the case of a bus driver in England who lost his job after handling bank notes that other people had used to take cocaine.

Mr Carroll was concerned that stringent action threatened by local authorities would essentially mean that “you could be considered fit to drive a two-tonne car at 70 miles an hour along the motorway, but yet you couldn’t do face-painting in a nursery class with toddlers”.

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We can't halt drug trade with arrests, says crime agency chief

Chasing smuggled shipments of illegal narcotics and hunting down crime lords stands little chance of halting the flow of cocaine, heroin and other illegal drugs that triggers violence on Britain’s streets, a top law enforcement official has said.

Vince O’Brien, the head of operations for drugs, firearms and other commodities for the National Crime Agency, said law enforcement in the UK expected the availability of illegal drugs to continue at least at their present level or rise.

He said reducing demand was key – but the desire for class A drugs was as strong as ever with profits huge, and crime barons innovating their products for users who see them as a choice of lifestyle rather than of addiction.

Whereas previously, county lines tactics had gangs from big cities selling drugs into smaller towns and rural areas, now gangs based in almost half of areas served by the 43 police forces in England and Wales sell drugs out of their areas, the NCA’s annual threat assessment has said.

The NCA is described as Britain’s version of the FBI and O’Brien is part of the country’s senior leadership fighting the drugs trade.

The UK’s main drugs policy has been prohibition, and trying to catch the importers, smugglers and dealers.

Record cocaine production is reported in the main source country, Colombia, which has more than doubled since 2012, and heroin production has also hit record levels, despite western efforts to stem the flow.

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Suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism linked to more middle-aged deaths than heart disease

One of the world's leading economists has warned of a rise of "deaths of despair" in Britain, revealing that suicide, drug abuse and alcoholism are now claiming more middle-aged lives than heart disease.

Sir Angus Deaton, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, has argued that there is a risk the UK will follow in America's footsteps and faces a sharp increase in self-inflicted deaths as people deal with increasing economic and socially isolation.

Sir Angus famously shed light on the problems faced in much of the US, where prescription drug abuse has risen to worrying levels.

Together with his wife, Anne Case, he published a pioneering report into what they called "deaths of despair" - suicide, alcohol related illnesses and drug abuse - which have risen sharply in the US.

Now for the first time he has, together with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), done the same analysis on the UK, where he says a similar trend is beginning to emerge.

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More adults seeking support for alcoholic parents

The number of adults seeking help to cope with an alcoholic parent has tripled over five years, according to a leading charity.

The National Association for the Children of Alcoholics took more than 23,000 calls or messages last year from over 18s, compared to 6,400 in 2013.

Services say more funding to support families and friends would help more people with alcoholic parents. The Department of Health said it was investing £6m to tackle the issue.

Children whose parents drink too much are said to be four times more likely to become dependent drinkers themselves.

The drug and alcohol charity Addaction says approximately one in three older adults with an alcohol problem first develop it later in life.

Amelia and Joe Carr, from Newcastle, grew up with an alcoholic father.

His drinking became very serious when Joe was 13 and Amelia was five. It continued up until his death two years ago. Towards the end of his life he was sleeping rough. It was the thing I'd been dreading seeing, my own dad homeless on the street," Joe says.

"I found him inebriated, as he always was, and dirty; sat in a doorway with a bottle. When I saw the state he was in all my anger evaporated and was replaced instead with pity."

Joe developed an issue with alcohol as an adult but he gave up completely when he became a father and is now teetotal. However, his ability to quit led to a new, very painful thought.

"I can't help but think if I could do that for my children why couldn't he?" he says.

Joe remembers the happy times before his father's issues with alcohol started. But Amelia, eight years his junior, only remembers her father drinking. When he died she says in some ways she felt relieved.

"Everyone around me was grieving for the man he was," she says, "but I just couldn't do that - I felt so guilty and confused."

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Drugs before sex more common in UK than in Europe or US – study

UK citizens are more likely than Europeans or those living in the US to have taken drugs such as MDMA and cocaine before sex during the last year, according to a new study.

Researchers used data from the Global Drug Survey of roughly 22,000 people to find that 64% (4,719) of people surveyed from the UK had had sex having drunk alcohol, compared with 60% (1,296) from Europe and 55% (2064) from the US.

Of those who took part in the study, the number who combined sex and cocaine was 13% from the UK (936) compared to 8% from Europe. Similarly, a higher number said they had had sex after MDMA, with 20% of those who participated in the survey from the UK saying they had done so against 15% from the US and Europe.

The study’s lead author, Dr Will Lawn, noted that because the study was self-selecting, the proportion in the overall population was likely to be lower.

The drugs most commonly used during sex across all countries were alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine, while GHB – which has been linked to chemsex parties, where participants take drugs with the specific aim of having sex afterwards – and MDMA were viewed as having the most significant

The findings were put together by academics at the University College London and the Global Drug Survey team and published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. They drew from a survey where people responded to online questions about which drugs they used when having sex, as well as how drugs affected their sexual experience.

“To my knowledge no one has ever investigated country-related difference in how drugs are combined with sex, and this shows the UK may well be at greater risk of chemsex-related harm than other countries, something our country has to be mindful of,” said Dr Lawn. The British Medical Journal has called chemsex a “public health timebomb” because of the associated prevalence of risky sex.

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Even one drink a day increases stroke risk, study finds

Even light-to-moderate drinking increases blood pressure and the chances of having a stroke, according to a large genetic study in The Lancet, countering previous claims that one or two drinks a day could be protective.

The UK and Chinese researchers followed 500,000 Chinese people for 10 years. They say the findings are relevant to all populations and the best evidence yet on the direct effects of alcohol.

Experts said people should limit their alcohol consumption. It is already known that heavy drinking is harmful to health and increases stroke risk - but some studies have suggested drinking small amounts can be good for the health, while others indicate there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.

The researchers, from the University of Oxford, Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, found that: For the purposes of their study, one drink was defined as either: About 16 in 100 men and 20 in 100 women will have a stroke in their lifetime in the UK.

So, if a group of 100 non-drinkers started drinking a glass or two every day, there would be an extra two strokes - a small increase.

According to Prof David Spiegelhalter, from the University of Cambridge, that's an increase in total stroke risk of 38% for every half a bottle of wine drunk per day.

He said: "It is very roughly the opposite effect of taking a statin", which are drugs prescribed by doctors to help lower cholesterol levels in the blood and prevent heart attacks and strokes.

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Mental illness and trauma blamed for rising drug deaths

High levels of drug misuse in Scotland have been linked to mental illness or childhood trauma, MPs investigating the problem have been told.

It comes as figures showed drug-related deaths in Scotland are now 2.5 times that of other UK countries. The total for 2018 is expected to top 1,000 for the first time.

Scotland has a disproportionately high number of problem drug users, estimated at more than 62,000.

The Commons Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC) will begin an inquiry on Tuesday to see why the numbers are so high and what the Scottish Parliament can do. Drug legislation is currently reserved to Westminster.

Written evidence already submitted to the inquiry team from drugs charities and health boards has highlighted links between mental health ill health and problem drug use, and reveals how stressful and traumatic experiences in childhood can increase the likelihood of a person developing problematic drug use later in life.

Pete Wishart, who will chair committee, said: "As we start our inquiry into problem drug use in Scotland it's important that we understand why some people are more likely to engage in drugs use, so support can be targeted to people at greater risk.

"The written evidence my committee has received reveals that there are many complex factors that can lead an individual to problematic drug use, and some of these influences are felt more keenly in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK."

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