WHATS NEW? - APRIL 2014

Ketamine to become Class B drug

Amy Winehouse Foundation drink and drugs scheme wins lottery grant

Drug-driving: New offence moves a step closer

'Breaking Bad' step-by-step drug article withdrawn

Youth services spending down by one-third

'Understanding Addiction': new course for your team

Drug testing in cricket: All players 'hair tested' in pilot scheme

Home Office rules out licensing of 'legal highs' shops

Over 40's face drink and drugs warning

Sale of ultra-cheap alcohol banned in England and Wales



Ketamine to become Class B drug


Ketamine, the medical anaesthetic used as a party drug, is to be upgraded to a Class B banned substance.

Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker said he hoped to send a message that the drug was harmful. Ketamine will be reclassified from Class C to B in the face of mounting evidence over its physical and psychological dangers.

Evidence has emerged of users as young as 20 having their bladders removed due to heavy consumption of the drug.

Reclassification will mean the maximum penalty for unlawful possession of ketamine will increase from two to five years in jail, while the maximum penalty for trafficking offences will continue to be 14 years imprisonment.

The confirmation that it would be upgraded came after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, the government's advisory body, said new evidence had shown frequent ketamine use could cause "severe and disabling" bladder damage.

Home Office figures released last summer indicated that in the previous year about 120,000 people aged 16-59 in England and Wales had taken ketamine.

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Amy Winehouse Foundation drink and drugs scheme wins lottery grant


The father of singer Amy Winehouse says he is "thrilled" after the charity set up in her honour was awarded a £4.3m lottery grant.

The Amy Winehouse Foundation has joined forces with charity Addaction to roll out a five-year drink and drugs education project to secondary schools.

The foundation piloted lessons last year where pupils were urged to talk openly to people affected by addiction. The extra money will see the scheme brought to 10 locations across England.

The Programme areas are: Mitch Winehouse said: "It won't solve the problems in itself, but it allows us to keep going with the great work being done in Amy's name".

A team of 250 trained volunteers, who have direct experience of substance misuse and are in recovery themselves, will help run the sessions.

Mr Winehouse set up the foundation following the death of his daughter in July 2011 at the age of 27.

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Drug-driving: New offence moves a step closer


Plans to bring in drug-drive limits for the first time have moved a step closer. But the Government is looking again at the proposed legal limit for amphetamine following concerns expressed during the consultation process.

In the meantime, following consultation, recommended limits for 16 different drugs have now been approved. This means eight generally prescribed drugs and eight illicit drugs will be added into new regulations that will come into force in autumn 2014.

The new rules will mean it will be an offence to be over the generally-prescribed limits for each drug and then drive a vehicle, as it is with drink-driving. The illicit drugs include cocaine, where drivers will not be allowed to exceed a limit of 10mg; cannabis, where the limit is 2mg, and also LSD where the limit is 1mg.

It had been proposed to set the amphetamine level at 50mg, but the Government said there had been "significant concerns" on the limit. The amphetamine level was now being reconsidered so that patients who take medicine for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are not affected.

The prescription drugs for which limits have been set include morphine (80mg) and methadone (500mg ).

Road safety minister Robert Goodwill said: "The results of the consultation is sending the strongest possible message that you cannot take illegal drugs and drive. This new offence will make our roads safer for everyone by making it easier for the police to tackle those who drive after taking illegal drugs. It will also clarify the limits for those who take medication."

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'Breaking Bad' step-by-step drug article withdrawn


A student medical journal that published step-by-step instructions on how to make mephedrone from everyday products has been withdrawn.

The Trinity Student Medical Journal (TSMJ) is edited and managed by students at Trinity College Dublin.

The essay was titled "Inspiration from Breaking Bad: Synthesis of Mephedrone from Legally-Acquired Domestic Substances".

The college said academics were not involved in editorial decisions.

In a statement, it said: "The TSMJ editorial board has made clear that the article was intended to highlight the important public health issue of illegal drug manufacture by dangerous methods that may generate potentially lethal and uncharacterised products.

"In this case the article suggested that the final product could be mephedrone; an illegal substance. However, concerned by its contents, the school of medicine on sight of the published article requested that the TSMJ editorial committee withdraw the journal from circulation due to a combination of significant scientific inaccuracies."

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Youth services spending down by one-third


The amount of money spent on services for teenagers in England has fallen by 36% in the past two years, according to figures released to the BBC.

Former children's minister, Tory MP Tim Loughton, said the £438m reduction in spending was "disproportionate". Youth workers warned that the long-term cost of the cuts would be "enormous".

But the Local Government Association said funding cuts meant there were "no easy choices" and spending on things like child protection came first.

The figures, released to BBC Radio 4's World at One after a Freedom of Information request to the Department for Education, outline the amount spent by local authorities on providing services like youth clubs and other out-of-school activities.

The spending also covers education for excluded pupils, teenage pregnancy services and drug and alcohol support programmes.

Cuts to youth services spending

They show that, in real terms, the amount spent by councils fell from £1.2bn in 2010-11, to £791m in 2012-13.

The biggest cut in percentage terms was in the London borough of Kensington and Chelsea which reduced its budget by 78%, or £5.1m, while Tower Hamlets cut spending by £9.4m - a 65% reduction. Outside the capital, Tameside, Stoke-on-Trent and Warrington all cut spending by more than 70%.

The amount being spent increased in seven out of 152 areas, including Oldham and Hertfordshire. Tory MP Tim Loughton, who was children's minister until September 2012, said "councils clearly are cutting youth services disproportionately".

He said a requirement that councils must provide "sufficient leisure-time activities" for teenagers, but only "so far as reasonably practicable", meant youth services were a "soft touch". Because they don't have to statutorily provide youth services they have too often been at the top of the queue when cuts come along," he said.

Fiona Black, chief executive of the National Youth Agency - the national body for youth work, said the cuts will lead to problems in the long term.

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'Understanding Addiction': new course for your team


We have recently developed a new one day course called 'Hooked: Understanding Addiction'

The course, led by Liam Watson (MSc, BSc (hons), PGDip) draws upon the most up to date research to explore the complex issue of addiction. The course examines the physiological, psychological, emotional and societal factors linked to the development of drug and alcohol dependency and other types of compulsive behaviours.

The course is suitable for all staff who require a better understanding of the addictive process and how they may be better able to assist their clients who are experiencing addiction. For further information on the course and to book the training for your organisation please click here.

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Drug testing in cricket: All players 'hair tested' in pilot scheme


Every professional cricketer in England and Wales has been "hair tested" for illegal drugs according to the English Cricket Board.

It marks a significant increase in the scope of testing in domestic cricket, which employs over 400 players. Testing hair samples can reveal drug use stretching back over as long as three months.

Cricket was urged to step up its testing after the death of Surrey batsman Tom Maynard who died on a railway line in London in 2012. Maynard, 23, was struck by a Tube train while drunk and under the influence of Class A drugs.

After his inquest in February 2013, English cricket bosses announced that they planned to increase testing for recreational drugs. Speaking after a jury at Westminster Coroner's Court returned a verdict of accidental death, coroner Dr Fiona Wilcox urged cricket and other sports to introduce hair testing to determine long-term drug habits.

The Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) and England and Wales Cricket Board instigated a pilot project involving all 18 first-class counties with the aim of discovering how widely cocaine and cannabis, among other drugs, were used by professionals.

Cricketers were informed that the results of the pilot test would remain confidential, with counselling and treatment offered initially in the wake of a 'positive'.

The PCA will not reveal the specific results of the pilot testing scheme, but when contacted by BBC Sport a spokesman described the results as "excellent".

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Home Office rules out licensing of 'legal highs' shops


The Home Office has said it has no intention of licensing shops that sell so-called "legal highs" after a minister appeared to float the idea.

Lib Dem Norman Baker was quoted by the Times as suggesting such outlets could be treated like sex shops with their windows blacked out and under-18s barred to show they weren't "harmless".

Home Office sources said his comments had been taken out of context. Mr Baker told BBC News he would not comment further on the issue.

The latest official UK figures show 68 deaths were linked to new psychoactive substances in 2012, up from 10 in 2009. The Times said Mr Baker had suggested that licensing was one way of controlling the proliferation of "head shops".

The outlets, of which there are hundreds in the UK, sell so called "legal highs" as well as New Age herbs, "party powders" and smoking-related paraphernalia.

"Rather than giving the impression that they are harmless, we need to consider whether or not there are messages and ways of dealing with those," the newspaper reported him as saying. We should maybe look at licensing them like sex shops with blacked-out windows and not allowing under-18s in."

But the Home Office issued a statement saying it had "no intention of regulating or licensing 'legal highs'".

"On the contrary, we are working to consider how current legislation can be toughened to combat this dangerous trade and ensure those involved in breaking the law are brought to justice," said a spokesman.

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Over 40's face drink and drugs warning


An increasing number of the baby-boom generation are taking illegal drugs and drinking to excess as they grow older, a drugs charity has warned.

According to a report released by DrugScope in which it warns of a 'silent epidemic', while the number of people treated for the use of drugs like heroin and crack cocaine is falling in the population as a whole, numbers are rising among people aged 40 and over.

DrugScope found that the problem is also not limited to those who have taken drugs in their younger years – it noted that "significant numbers of older people are also 'late starters', using substances to self-medicate physical and psychological problems associated with getting older".

Public Health England has warned that the increasingly unhealthy older population "with its persistent substance misuse problems" will present the NHS with a "significant challenge' in the years to come.

The Drugscope report noted that an estimated 1.4 million people aged over 65 now exceed recommended drinking limits, and that alcohol-related hospital admissions for over-65s more than doubled from 2002 to the start of this decade.

For the 75 plus group alcohol-related deaths are at the highest level since records began in 1991, DrugScope said.

Marcus Roberts, DrugScope's chief executive, said: "Drug and alcohol policy and practice – and the attention of the media - invariably focuses on young people. Drugs and alcohol issues may affect older people differently, but that does not make them less real or important. They may be a symptom of other problems, such as loneliness and isolation, caring for a partner, bereavement or the struggle to make ends meet. He added: "We need to develop a range of age-appropriate interventions, and to make the connections between drug and alcohol issues and older people policy, both nationally and locally. It's time to bring this largely 'invisible' issue into the light and to improve the support for older people with drug and alcohol issues."

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Sale of ultra-cheap alcohol banned in England and Wales


The government has banned the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices in England and Wales, the Home Office announced.

Ministers hope the move, which will came into force on 6 April, will stop the worst instances of deep discounting, which has resulted in cans of lager being sold more cheaply than water in supermarkets.

The move has however been criticised by Alcohol agencies as 'laughable' and 'impossible to implement'

An official impact assessment says the ban on sales of alcohol at below cost, defined as duty plus VAT, will mean an ordinary 440ml can of beer or lager cannot be sold below 50p.

The new "floor price" for a bottle of wine will be £2.24; a bottle of vodka or other spirits will cost a minimum of £10.16. Low-strength beers that have an alcoholic content of 1.2% or less will be exempt from the policy, as will duty-free sales on ships, aircraft and in airports.

Health campaigners accused ministers of buckling to pressure from the drinks industry last July when they rejected a minimum unit price for alcohol and a ban on multi-buy promotions.

The Alcohol Health Alliance, which includes the medical royal colleges, said the impact of the alternative ban on selling at below duty plus VAT would be negligible.

The Home Office's impact assessment acknowledges the move is only likely to hit 1.3% of all alcohol sales, mainly in supermarkets, but says that this amounts to sales of 220m litres a year.

An explanatory memorandum alongside the parliamentary order introducing the ban says the "government is committed to ensuring the worst cases of cheap alcohol are banned from sale".

Ministers insist below-cost selling is a real issue, with six out of seven major supermarkets found to be selling alcohol at up to 12% below cost in a 2008 Competition Commission study. They also point to growing evidence of "pre-loading", with two-thirds of young people who were arrested for alcohol-related crime and disorder in one English city admitting they "tanked up" with cheap supermarket booze before going out.

The official impact assessment estimates the move will lead to savings of £5.3m a year in health benefits and £3.6m in crime savings. Annual costs are put at £5.3m including lost duty and VAT revenue and enforcement costs.

Eric Appleby, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, dismissed the move: "The idea that banning below-cost sales will help tackle our problem with alcohol is laughable, it's confusing and close to impossible to implement. On top of this, reports show it would have an impact on just 1% of alcohol products sold in shops and supermarkets leaving untouched most of those drinks that are so blatantly targeted at young people.

"The government is wasting time when international evidence shows that minimum unit pricing is what we need to save lives and cut crime."

But Home Office minister Norman Baker said the government was determined to tackle the £11bn a year cost of alcohol-fuelled crime: "Banning the sale of alcohol below duty plus VAT will stop the worst examples of very cheap and harmful drink," he said. "It is part of a wide range of action we are taking, including challenging the drinks industry to play a greater role in tackling alcohol abuse."

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