News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly

Minimum Alcohol Pricing Plan for England and Wales Shelved

BBC News reports that the UK government has shelved plans to introduce a minimum price for a unit of alcohol in England and Wales. A minister said that the policy would remain ‘under consideration’ but there was not enough ‘concrete evidence’ that minimum pricing could reduce the harmful effects of problem drinking without hurting those who drank responsibly. Multi-buy promotions in shops will also not be banned. As part of a wider strategy to deal with heavy drinking, the minister said there would be tougher action on ‘irresponsible promotions’ in pubs and clubs and the alcohol industry would need to do more to educate people about safer drinking and on being responsible. Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, said the government had ‘caved in to lobbying from big business and reneged on its commitment to tackle alcohol sold at pocket-money prices.’


Report on Impact of Alcohol Minimum Pricing

The University of Sheffield has published new research examining the impacts on minimum pricing on specific income groups. The research was ‘produced at the request of the UK Government to inform consultation and impact assessments.’ Estimates from a new updated version of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model (version 2.5) suggest that minimum unit pricing (MUP) policies would be effective in reducing alcohol consumption, alcohol-related harms and the costs associated with those harms and that moderate drinkers would experience only small impacts from MUP policies. Larger impacts would be experienced by hazardous drinkers, and the main substantial effects would be experienced amongst harmful drinkers. MUP policies would have larger impacts on low income harmful drinkers than higher income harmful drinkers although both would be affected substantially. The impact on low income moderate drinkers would be small in absolute terms. Additional analyses estimated a minimal impact of a below cost ban ‘approximately 40 to 50 times smaller than the estimated impact of a 45p (pence) MUP.’


Backing for European Commission Proposal for New Tobacco Restrictions

European Voice reports that the European Parliament's environment and health committee has voted to back the European Commission's proposal for new tobacco restrictions, banning slim cigarettes and flavourings including menthol cigarettes, and requiring graphic pictorial warnings covering 75% of cigarette packs. The committee members also voted to back the Commission's proposal to classify all e-cigarettes as medicinal products, regardless of nicotine content. An amendment to require ‘plain packaging’ on cigarette packs—banning the use of logos or trademarks—was rejected.


Methamphetamine Use on the Rise in China

Le Monde, as translated by Worldcrunch, reports that methamphetamine, known locally as bingdu, has replaced heroin as the main drug in the drug market in Yunnan province in southwestern China, near the border with Burma (Myanmar). This reflects the growing popularity of synthetic drugs in the country. The article reports that in 2011, 65% of Chinese addicts were heroin users, down 13% since 2008. According to the National Drug Control Commission, methamphetamine users now make up 23% of addicts, up from 9% in 2008. Wang Yaqing, who heads an organization that helps drug addicts, said ‘Before, heroin was as easy to buy as Chinese cabbage but now to find some, you need to have good contacts—while bingdu is available everywhere.’ Methamphetamines in northeastern China usually come from North Korea. Whether the Korean bingdu is produced by organized crime gangs or if the Korean government is directly involved is uncertain according to the article. ‘Beijing must have an idea but the issue is too embarrassing. For geopolitical reasons, China supports North Korea on the international stage. It also supports Burma. Either directly or by negligence, these two neighbours supply the “ice” affecting its population,’ explained a Chinese researcher in the article.


Threat to Official Statistics on Smoking and Drinking in UK

The Guardian reports that a reduction in funding has led Britain's Office of National Statistics (ONS) to consider a programme of cuts to its statistical output including publication of statistics on smoking and drinking. ONS confirmed a public consultation on a programme of cuts is to begin within the next month. ‘Challenging and difficult decisions will need to be made,’ said an ONS spokesman. Glen Watson, ONS's director-general said in a letter, dated 5 April, that the ONS is facing ‘severe funding pressures’ but their ability to find savings is restricted because over 80% of their work is required under EU law. Watson continued ‘The scale of reductions in 2013/14, 2014/15 and those likely in 2015/16 mean that significant reductions in statistical outputs would be necessary unless we can secure additional funding from HM Treasury, or directly from other departments. My priority will be to make sure that we can continue to meet the legal requirements placed on ONS, and to ensure that the statistics we do produce are of sufficiently high quality.’


Drugs and the Internet Report Published

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre has published the first report in a new Drug Trends series that provides analysis of trends over time in the availability and type of substances sold via the internet to Australia. The current bulletin reports for the time period September 2012 to February 2013. The ‘surface web’ of sites accessible via search engines like Google was monitored for information as well as the Silk Road Marketplace (‘deep web’) where transactions are encrypted, anonymous and made using the online currency Bitcoin. The number of retailers on the Silk Road increased (from 282 at time 1 to 374 at the last time point), while the number of retailers on the surface web remained relatively stable (92 at time 1 and 101 at the last time point). On the ‘surface web’ retailers tend to offer emerging psychoactive substances (EPS) that are marketed as ‘legal highs’ (though they may not be legal in Australia). On the Silk Road marketplace traditional illicit drugs like cannabis and ecstasy are sold alongside EPS.


Cannabis Legalisation Closer in Uruguay

BBC News reports that Uruguay's House of Representatives has passed a bill to legalise cannabis. It is expected to be approved by the Senate which will mean that Uruguay will become the first country in the world to regulate the production, distribution and sale of cannabis. The measure is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica. Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell cannabis. The state would assume ‘the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products’. Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home. Opposition politicians said that even if the law made it through the senate, they would launch a petition to have it overturned. A survey carried out before the vote by polling organisation Cifra suggested 63% of Uruguayans opposed the bill. The vote comes a few days after Pope Francis spoke against drug legalisation plans during a visit to neighbouring Brazil. Pope Francis said it was ‘necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future.’


World Health Organization Report Shows Progress in Tobacco Control

The 2013 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic presents an update on the impact of the MPOWER measures—Monitor tobacco use and prevention policies, Protect people from tobacco smoke, Offer help to quit tobacco use, Warn people about the dangers of tobacco, Enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, and Raise taxes on tobacco. The report has country-specific data updated and aggregated through 2012. The report provides a special focus on legislation to ban tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship (TAPS) in WHO Member States. More than 2.3 billion people living in 92 countries are now covered by at least one measure at the highest level of achievement according to the report.


Conferences and Events

California Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counsellors/California Foundation for the Advancement of Addiction Professionals (CAADAC/CFAAP) 33rd Annual Conference, 3–6 October 2013, Sacramento, California USA. Website:

Addiction Neuroethics Conference 2013: Neuroethics Down-under, 4 October 2013, Herston, Queensland, Australia. Website:

26th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress, 5–9 October 2013, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

Global Alcohol Policy Conference 2013, 7–9 October 2013, Seoul, Republic of Korea. Website:

NAADAC (the Association for Addiction Professionals) National Conference, 11–14 October 2013, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Website:

California Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) Addiction Medicine State of the Art 2013, 16–19 October 2013, San Diego, California, USA. Website:

AHSR 2013: The Addiction Health Services Research Conference, 23–25 October 2013, Portland, Oregon, USA. Website:

III International Congress on Dual Disorders, 23–26 October 2013, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

REFORM: International Drug Policy Reform, 23–26 October 2013, Denver, Colorado, USA. Website:

Substance Misuse Management in General Practice (SMMGP) 8th National Primary Care Development Conference, 24 October 2013, Manchester, UK. Website:

American Public Health Association (APHA) 2013 Annual Meeting, 2–6 November 2013, Boston, Massachusetts, USA. Website:

Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse National Conference: Issues of Substance 2013, 4–6 November 2013, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Website:

53rd DHS (German Centre for Addiction Issues) Conference: Addiction and Work, 4–6 November 2013, Essen, Germany. Website:

DrugScope Conference 2013: Drug and Alcohol Services and the New Players, 6 November 2013, London, UK. Website:

Society for the Study of Addiction Annual Symposium, 7–8 November 2013, York UK. Website:

37th Annual Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA) Conference, 7–9 November 2013, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Website:

American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) National Conference, 9–13 November 2013, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Website:

International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) 2013 Annual Meeting, 21–23 November 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Website:

Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) Scientific Conference 2013, 24–27 November 2013, Brisbane, Australia. Website:

2013 International Drug Policy Symposium, 27–29 November 2013, Auckland, New Zealand. Website:

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (AAAP) 24th Annual Meeting and Symposium, 5–8 December 2013, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. Website:

Preventive Medicine 2014 (American College of Preventive Medicine), 19–22 February 2014, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Website:

American College of Psychiatrists Annual Meeting, 19–23 February 2014, San Antonio, Texas, USA. Website:

22nd European Congress of Psychiatry, 1–4 March 2014, Munich, Germany. Website:

American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM) 30th Annual Meeting, 6–9 March 2014, Phoenix, Arizona, USA. Website:

American Academy of Health Behavior 2014 Meeting, 16–19 March 2014, Charleston, South Carolina, USA. Website:

ASCPT 2014 (American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics), 18–22 March 2014, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Website:

35th Annual Meeting & Scientific Sessions of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, 23–26 April 2014, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Website:

American Psychiatric Association (APA) 167th Annual Meeting, 3–7 May 2014, New York, New York, USA. Website:

National Council for Behavioral Health Conference, 5–7 May 2014, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) 2014 Annual Conference, 17–20 May 2014, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. Website:

Society for Clinical Trials (SCT) 35th Annual Meeting, 18–21 May 2014, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Website:

Kettil Bruun Society 40th Annual Meeting, 9–13 June 2014, Torino, Italy. Website:

College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) Annual Meeting, 14–19 June 2014, San Juan, Puerto Rico. Website:

Joint ISBRA/RSA Congress, 21–25 June 2014, Seattle, Washington, USA. Website:

3rd International Conference and Exhibition on Addiction Research and Therapy, 4–6 August 2014, Chicago, Illinois, USA. Website:

Canada Psychiatric Association 64th Annual Conference, 11–13 September 2014, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Website:

16th World Congress of Psychiatry, 14–18 September 2014, Madrid, Spain. Website:

News and Notes welcomes contributions from its readers. Send your material to John Witton, News and Notes Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7848 5966; e-mail

Conference entries should be sent to Jean O'Reilly at Subject to editorial review, we will be glad to print, free of charge, details of your conference or event, up to 75 words and one entry only. Please send your notification three months before you wish the entry to appear.