News and Notes

Authors

  • Peter Miller,

  • Susan Savva


NATURE NETWORK

By Louisa Strain

Nature Network is a free social networking site pioneered by Nature Publishing Group, designed especially for scientists to interact online globally. The site allows scientists to create their own personal profiles, hold online discussions and create groups (open or private), forums and blogs. Scientists can also tag their posts; which creates an indexing system across the site allowing linking between related topics. The ‘Facebook’ of science, Nature Network has the potential to help addiction researchers and scientists come together across the globe to discuss their latest research, stimulate debate and develop international contacts in the field.

At a local level, the Network currently has hubs in London and Boston which give details of various science events, jobs and news. However, the site is expanding internationally and the intention is to develop hubs throughout the world in the next few years. Nature Network does not currently have a group for addiction researchers, but would welcome such a discussion forum if there is interest from the research community. Please contact the London editor Matt Brown (m.brown@nature.com) for more details. To register on Nature Network, visit http://www.nature.com.

REVIEW OF THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TREATMENT FOR ALCOHOL PROBLEMS

By Duncan Raistrick

The UK National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse commissioned this review [1] to support the implementation of the Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England. The Strategy focuses on binge drinkers, whereas the review concerns itself with interventions to suit the whole range of problem drinking.

The review concludes that there is a strong evidence base for the effectiveness of interventions for alcohol problems interventions and that treatment outcomes would be much improved if research findings could be translated into clinical practice. That said, it is also stressed that drinking takes place within a social context and that the majority of people, including dependent drinkers, move in and out of different patterns of drinking without recourse to professional treatment; hence the importance of assisted and unassisted natural recovery which is often mediated through self-help, family and friends, and mutual aid groups.

The review asserts that stepped care is a rational approach to delivering treatment within an integrated service model. Since there was no time to conduct fresh systematic reviews of the relevant literature, the review takes the Mesa Grande project as a starting point and pulls together the international evidence for the effectiveness of screening and brief interventions, at one end of the spectrum, through to specialist, mainly cognitive-behavioural approaches, at the other end. Running throughout this, the review assumes that psychosocial treatments will be core and may be enhanced by pharmacotherapies which are separately evaluated. The cost-effectiveness of treatment is also separately evaluated. Each section summarises the strength of evidence found and each chapter ends with implications for service users, service providers, commissioners, and researchers.

Copies of the Review may be downloaded from: http://www.nta.nhs.uk/publications/documents/nta_review_of_the_effectiveness_of_treatment_for_alcohol_problems_fullreport_2006_alcohol2.pdf

Reference

ANTIDEPRESSANTS EFFECT IS SIGNIFICANT ONLY IN SEVERE DEPRESSION

A meta-analysis of clinical trials data which has attracted wide publicity shows that ‘new generation’ antidepressants achieve almost no benefit compared with placebo in mild to moderate depression [1]. Kirsch and colleagues did however find evidence of slightly more benefit in severe depression, but only because of lower response to placebo. They analysed all available data from clinical trials submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the licensing of four selective serotonin or serotonin-noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors: fluoxetine (Prozac), venlafaxine (Efexor), nefazodone (Serzone), and paroxetine (Seroxat, Paxil). The results were obtained from the FDA under the Freedom of Information Act. The effect of drug treatment reached conventional criteria for clinical significance (as defined by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) only for patients at the upper end of the ‘very severely depressed’ category. The authors suggest that drugs should be evaluated in terms of clinical criteria as well as statistical criteria. Although the trials studied reached statistical significance for the effects compared to placebo—as required by the FDA for drugs to be licensed—the effects reported failed to reach clinical significance. The authors point out that many of the studies reviewed were of very short duration (6 weeks or less) and call for further independent investigation of clinical effectiveness over longer periods.

Reference

LINK BETWEEN SMOKING AND SIDS EXPLAINED BY NEW RESEARCH

A new study [1] sheds light on the association between women who smoke while pregnant—or are exposed to second-hand smoke—and an increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) to their babies. The study's authors found a mechanism that explains why an infant's ability to respond to oxygen deprivation after birth or a hypoxic episode is dramatically compromised by exposure to nicotine in the womb (in even light to moderate amounts). The research, which was conducted on laboratory rats, explains the critical role that catecholamines, a group of hormones released by the adrenal glands, play in a baby's transition to the outside world. These hormones signal the adrenal glands to release the catecholamines, which contain adrenaline. They also signal the baby's lungs to reabsorb fluid, to take its first breath, and help the heart to beat more efficiently. They play a role in aiding the baby's arousal and breathing responses during periods of apnoea or asphyxia. The research demonstrates that the ability to release catecholamines during these moments is impaired by nicotine exposure. Thus, the infant becomes more vulnerable to SIDS.

The study was funded in part by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and Focus on Stroke.

Source: Medical News Today, 30 January 2008

Reference

WHO REPORT ON GLOBAL TOBACCO CONTROL EFFORTS

A newly-published World Health Organization (WHO) report presents the first comprehensive analysis of global tobacco use and control efforts. A headline finding is that only 5% of the world's population live in countries that fully protect their population with one of the key measures proven to reduce smoking rates. The measures together form a package of six policies called MPOWER: (1) to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies; (2) to protect people from tobacco smoke; (3) to offer help to quit tobacco use; (4) to warn about the dangers of tobacco; (5) to enforce bans on tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and—the most effective strategy of all—(6) to raise taxes on tobacco.

Governments around the world collect 500 times more money in tobacco taxes each year than they spend on anti-tobacco efforts, according to the report, which recommends that tobacco taxes could be significantly increased in nearly all countries, in order to provide a source of sustainable funding to implement and enforce the six recommended strategies.

Source: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2008/pr04/en/index.html (accessed 11 March 2008)

ALCOHOL RESEARCH GROUP LIBRARIAN LAID OFF

On 16 January 2008, Andrea Mitchell, librarian of the Alcohol Research Group (Emeryville, CA) was laid off from her job on the grounds of ‘restructuring’ and financial crisis. Termination of her employment took immediate effect. Andrea Mitchell had worked at ARG for 37 years. Many researchers and clinicians in the alcohol field who have benefited richly from Andrea's many contributions to fine scholarship over the years are deeply grateful to her and hope that her activity in the field will continue. She may be reached at amitchell@salis.org.

See also: http://www.kettilbruun.org/KBS%20Adopts%20Resolution_kbs.pdf (accessed 11 March 2008)

EVIDENCE-BASED MEASURES UNDER THREAT

The March 2008 issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases contains a ‘reflection and reaction’ piece which describes the attempts of an interest group to present opinion essays as scientific ‘peer-reviewed’ material [1]. In particular, the authors focus on a website posted as the Institute on Global Drug Policy (IGDP) which presents itself as ‘an online open access journal’. The site happens to be a part of the Drug Free America Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports ‘efforts to oppose policies based on the concept of harm reduction.’ The Lancet authors accuse such groups of challenging the evidence for some harm reduction measures on the basis of ideology. They give as an example an IGDP report which, it is claimed, has influenced the views of politicians regarding North America's first medically supervised injecting facility (SIF) in Vancouver. Canada's federal health minister publicly referred to the IGDP report as evidence of the ‘growing debate’ about SIF, despite all studies published in conventional scientific publications indicating multiple benefits and few negative effects.

Reference

CONFERENCES AND EVENTS

Seen and Unseen Harms. Australian Winter School, Brisbane, 12–14 May 2008. Daily themes are families and AOD; workplace AOD; and social exclusion. Contact: http://www.winterschool.info

Treatment and Recovery in the Criminal Justice System. Talk by Tim McSweeney in the Pathways to Recovery seminar series, University of Stirling. 22 May 2008. Organised by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research and Scottish Addiction Studies. Contact: http://www.dass.stir.ac.uk/old-site/DRUGS/pathways/files/details.htm

KBS 2008. 34th Annual Alcohol Epidemiology Symposium of the Kettil Bruun Society. 2–6 June 2008, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Contact: http://www.kettilbruun.org

1st International Conference on Motivational Interviewing. Casino Kursaal Conference Centre, Interlaken, Switzerland, 9–11 June 2008. Contact: http://www.icmi2008.com

College on Problems of Drug Dependence. 70th Annual Meeting, the Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico. 14–19 June 2008. Contact: http://www.cpdd.vcu.edu

Joint RSA/ISBRA Scientific Conference. Grand Hyatt, Washington DC, 28 June-02 July 2008. Contact: Debby Sharp at DebbyRSA@sbcglobal.net

UKNSCC 2008. UK National Smoking Cessation Conference, Hilton Metropole, Birmingham. 30 June-1 July 2008. Contact: 2008 UKNSCC, Exchange Supplies, 1 Great Western Industrial Centre, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 1RD; fax +44 (0)1305 262255; email info@exchangesupplies.org; website http://www.exchangesupplies.org

Drugs and Society in Africa. 8th Biennial International Conference of CRISA, 23–24 July 2008, Abuja, Nigeria. Main conference theme is substance abuse and social development. Contact: Andrew Zamani, zamaning@yahoo.com or Isidore Obot, iobot@crisanet.org; website http://www.crisanet.org

1st Global Conference on Methamphetamine: Science, Strategy and Response. Charles University, Prague, 15–16 September 2008. Discussing the intersection between methamphetamine use, public health, law enforcement and civil society. Contact: website http://www.globalmethconference.com; email prague2008@globalmeth.com

Public Health Without Borders. 136th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association. San Diego, California, 25–29 October 2008. Contact: http://www.apha.org/meetings/highlights/

Empowerment for Practitioners. 51st International ICAA Conference on Dependencies, 2–7 November 2008, Limassol, Cyprus. Hosted by the Centre for Drug Prevention and Rehabilitation of Substance Dependent Persons (KENTHEA). Deadline for submission of abstracts: 30 September. Contact: http://www.icaa.ch/ICAA_Limassol_2008_main.html

Substance Abuse: Current Trends, Current Solutions. 32nd Annual Conference, Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse. 6–8 November 2008, Hilton Embassy Row, Washington DC. Call for abstracts: by 15 May. Up to 15 full and partial conference travel awards are available. Contact: website http://www.amersa.org; email doreen@amersa.org

Addiction Across the Life Span: Tracking Processes of Recovery. Society for the Study of Addiction Annual Symposium. 13–14 November 2008, Park Inn Hotel, York, United Kingdom. Contact: Graham Hunt, SSA Administrator, Leeds Addiction Unit, 19 Springfield Mount, Leeds, LS2 9NG, UK; fax +44 (0)113 295 2787; email graham.hunt@leedspft.nhs.uk

News and Notes welcomes contributions from its readers. Send your material to Peter Miller, News and Notes Editor, Addiction, National Addiction Centre PO48, 4 Windsor Walk, London SE5 8AF. Fax +44 (0)20 7703 5787; e-mail susan@addictionjournal.org

Conference entries should be sent to Susan Savva at susan@addictionjournal.org. 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.

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