ALBERT HOFMANN, ‘THE FATHER OF LSD’
Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann, who died on 29th April 2008 at the age of 102, synthesised lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) in 1938, becoming the first person in the world to experience an acid trip. Graduating from Zürich University with a degree in chemistry in 1929, Hofmann then completed his doctorate and went to work for Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. Initially he hoped that by synthesising LSD the substance might prove useful as a circulatory and respiratory stimulant, but after some experimentation, LSD was found to have little medical use. However, trusting his own intuition, Hofmann decided to re-synthesise LSD some years later. In his autobiography, LSD, My Problem Child (1979), Hofmann described experiencing some unusual sensations in the final stage of the synthesis. He came to the conclusion that he must have accidentally ingested some laboratory material and assumed LSD was the cause. The next day, Monday April 19th 1943, Hofmann tested his theory and swallowed 0.25 of a milligram. Forty minutes later, his laboratory journal recorded ‘dizziness, feeling of anxiety, visual distortions, symptoms of paralysis, desire to laugh.’ The effects subsided after six hours of highs and lows. More than 2000 papers had been published on LSD by 1965, offering hope for a range of conditions from drug and alcohol addiction to various mental illnesses. However, cheaply made and widely available, LSD soon became the recreational drug of choice for many youth cultures in the west, and shortly after it was widely criminalized. Hofmann disapproved of the appropriation of LSD by the youth movements of the 1960s, but regretted that its potential uses had not been explored.
Hofmann was also the first to synthesize psilocybin (the active constituent of ‘magic mushrooms’) and later he discovered the hallucinogenic principles of Ololiuqui (Morning Glory), lysergic acid amide and lysergic acid hydroxyethylamide. In retirement, Hofmann served as a member of the Nobel Prize Committee and was a Fellow of the World Academy of Sciences. In 1988 the Albert Hofmann Foundation was established. Albert Hofmann was married and had three children.
UK CANNABIS CLASSIFICATION BACKFLIP MOOTED
In a move long signaled by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, he has decided to ignore the advice of his expert Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). A decision to return cannabis to class B will again make possession an arrestable offence, which will mean the offender could face prosecution with the possibility of a prison sentence in a few cases. The report from the Council recommending that cannabis should remain a class C drug was delivered to the Home Secretary. This is the third time the ACMD has considered the classification of cannabis since 2001, with no significant changes in the evidence relating to harm caused by its use. The ACMD were in fact told during briefings that the incidence of new schizophrenia cases reported to GPs had gone down, not up, between 1998 and 2005.
BAN URGED ON GIFTS AT US MEDICAL SCHOOLS
The Association of American Medical Colleges has recommended that drug and medical device companies should be banned from offering free food, gifts, travel and ghost-writing services to doctors, staff and students in all 129 of the nation's medical colleges. The proposed ban is the result of a two-year effort by the Association to create a model policy governing interactions between the schools and industry. It is estimated that drug companies spend billions of dollars wooing doctors—more than they spend on research or consumer advertising. Medical schools, packed with prominent professors and impressionable trainees, are seen as particularly attractive marketing targets. The report states that “such forms of industry involvement tend to establish reciprocal relationships that can inject bias, distort decision-making and create the perception among colleagues, students, trainees and the public that practitioners are being ‘bought’ or ‘bribed’ by industry.” While the new rules would apply only to medical schools, they are likely to have substantial influence across the world of medicine.
The AAMC report may be accessed at http://www.aamc.org/research/coi/industryfunding.pdf
FIRST RESULTS OF 2007 AUSTRALIAN HOUSEHOLD SURVEY
The 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use all fell between 2004 and 2007. First results from the survey show that the proportion of the population aged 14 years or older, who smoke daily, declined from 17.4% to 16.6% between 2004 and 2007. Rates of recent cannabis and methamphetamine use have also declined. However, since the last survey, the proportion of both men and women reporting recent cocaine use has increased, but more so for men—from 1.3% to 2.2%. The survey was conducted between July and November 2007, and included 23,000 Australians aged 12 years or older. Most of the analysis in the report is based on the population aged 14 years upwards.
Source: The 2007 National Drug Strategy Household Survey: First Results Report http://www.aihw.gov.au/mediacentre/2008/mr20080427.cfm
Earlier this year the Australian Government increased tax on alcopops by 70%, as new research showed that teenage girls are drinking more than boys, according to a report in the London newspaper The Telegraph (30 April 2008). Concerned by the rise in ‘binge drinking’, the government has put up tax on pre-mixed rum and vodka-based drinks by AU$1.30 [60 pence] a bottle. The measure is designed to counteract anxieties that the drinks are specifically marketed at teenagers.
FINAL WORD ON VANCOUVER'S SUPERVISED INJECTION SITE?
A committee of experts has released its final report summarizing research on supervised injection sites, with special reference to Insite, Vancouver's injection facility. The Expert Advisory Committee was created by Health Canada in October 2006 to distil and synthesize existing research findings on injection facilities around the world. A Federal Coordinating Committee created to guide the research posed questions to the expert group concerning Insite's effect on health and public order, its cost effectiveness, general limiting factors, and the differences between the drug scene in Vancouver and other Canadian cities. The expert committee reached consensus on 17 conclusions. Headline findings include:
- • Insite provides a clean environment for drug use;
- • Insite provides nursing services to a large number of users;
- • The general public has positive views of Insite;
- • Users rate the service as highly satisfactory;
- • Insite encourages users to seek counselling and treatment, which has resulted in an increase in treatment engagement;
- • There is no evidence of increased loitering, dealing or petty crime in the area around Insite.
To view the report in full visit http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/pubs/sites-lieux/index_e.html
MOUTH TEST TO DETECT PRE-LUNG CANCER ON THE WAY
A research team from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center have reported that damage to cells lining the mouth can predict similar harm in the lungs, which eventually leads to lung cancer in smokers. They hope that in the future it may be possible to swab the mouths of smokers to predict who is at risk of developing lung cancer, saving painful and dangerous biopsies of the lung. Members of the research team studied two genes known to help prevent the development of cancer—p16 and FHIT. ‘There is substantial damage to these genes long before there is cancer,’ said Li Mao, team leader, speaking at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in San Diego, California in April. Samples from the lungs and mouth of 125 long-time smokers were examined for specific damage to the two genes, and it was found that in 95 percent of those whose genes were affected, they were affected in both the mouth and the lung. To take a simple swab from inside the cheek of a patient would make an easier test for pre-lung cancer than having to perform a bronchoscopy, researchers said.
Source: Reuters News (13 April 2008) http://tinyurl.com/5edphm
CONFERENCES AND EVENTS
What about Harm Reduction? Third event in the Drugs, Alcohol and Criminal Justice series organized by Conference Consortium. 17–18 July 2008, Warwick University, Warwick, United Kingdom. Contact: email firstname.lastname@example.org; website http://www.conferenceconsortium.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, email@example.com or Isidore Obot, firstname.lastname@example.org; website http://www.crisanet.org
One Hundred Years of Drug Prevention. World Forum Against Drugs. Stockholm, Sweden, 8–10 September 2008. Contact: WFAD, Ragvaldsgatan 14, SE-118 46 Stockholm, Sweden; tel. +46 8 644 2174; email email@example.com; website: http://wfad08.org
1st Global Conference on Methamphetamine: Science, Strategy and Response. Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic, 15–16 September 2008. Discussing the intersection between methamphetamine use, public health, law enforcement and civil society. Contact: website http://www.globalmethconference.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Scientific Evidence: Criteria for Therapy, Needs for Prevention. 10th European Conference of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco. 23–26 September 2008, Hotel Villa Pamphili, Rome, Italy. Contact: Anteprimadue S.r.l., Viale del Tintoretto, 88-00142 Rome, Italy; tel +39 065403600; fax +39 06547865; email email@example.com; website http://www.anteprimadue.it
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/
UK National Conference on Injecting Drug Use. Novotel London West, 27–28 October 2008. Organised by Exchange Supplies in association with National Needle Exchange Forum, Drug and Alcohol Findings, and Frontier Medical Products. Deadline for submission of abstracts: 4 August. Contact: 2008 NCIDU, Exchange Supplies, 1 Great Western Industrial Centre, Dorchester Dorset DT1 1RD; tel. +44 (0)1305 262244; fax +44 (0)1305 262255; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website: http://exchangesupplies.org
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. Up to 15 full and partial conference travel awards are available. Contact: website http://www.amersa.org; email email@example.com
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. Abstracts welcomed, and do not have to adhere to the conference theme. Contact: Graham Hunt, SSA Administrator, Leeds Addiction Unit, 19 Springfield Mount, Leeds, LS2 9NG, UK; fax +44 (0)113 295 2787; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Addiction and the Family. Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel, College Green, Bristol, UK. 21 November 2008. Organised by UWE Bristol, University of Bath, and Avon & Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust. Contact: Mrs Jan Green, Alcohol and Health Research Unit, University of the West of England, Blackberry Hill, Bristol BS16 1DD; tel +44 (0)117 328 8800; fax +44 (0)117 328 8900; email Jan.Green@uwe.ac.uk
Evidence, Policy and Practice. Annual conference of APSAD, the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs, 23–26 November 2008, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia. Contact: http://www.apsad2008.com/
14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health. 8–12 March 2009, Mumbai, India. Early registration discount until 15 September 2008. Contact: http://www.wctoh.org
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