News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Drug Report 2011, published in June, identifies some stability in prevalence rates of illicit drug use and production. Globally, UNODC estimates that, in 2009, between 149 and 272 million people, or 3.3% to 6.1% of the population aged 15–64, used illicit substances at least once in the previous year. While the total number of illicit drug users has increased since the late 1990s, the prevalence rates have remained largely stable, as has the number of problem drug users, which is estimated by the UNODC at between 15 and 39 million. Global opium poppy cultivation amounted to 195 700 ha in 2010, a small increase from 2009, while the global area under coca cultivation fell by 18% from 2007 to 2010. However, the report draws attention to a 20% increase in opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar. Declining opium production in Afghanistan coupled with this increase in Myanmar means that South-East Asian opium now accounts for 12% of global opium production, an increase from 5% in 2007. The report also notes that South-East Asia plays a major role in the clandestine manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS). Methamphetamine manufacture is mainly concentrated in China, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines. UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov commented that ‘The Golden Triangle is not just about opium anymore; it's a business that caters to consumers. The international community seems to have taken its eye off the ball on drug control in South-East Asia. We have to be proactive on all fronts before the region again becomes a major drugs hub’.



Monitoring Alcohol Marketing in Africa is the first product of co-operation between EUCAM (European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing), STAP (the Dutch Institute for Alcohol Policy) and the WHO. The report gives an overview of alcohol marketing practices and regulations in Gambia, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda and found marketing practices that are seen as unacceptable in Europe are used widely in Africa by international alcohol companies. The report shows that alcohol producers based in Europe do not adhere to company rules when marketing the product in the African countries monitored. For example, according to most self-regulation codes in Europe and most company rules, alcohol advertisements may not be placed within 500 feet of schools or when more than 30% of the expected spectators are underage. Nevertheless, the report shows illustrations of alcohol billboards in front of elementary schools, secondary schools and playgrounds. Only Gambia, of the four countries monitored, strictly regulates alcohol marketing and the report suggests that a clear alcohol marketing regulation limits the prevalence of alcohol marketing in society.



BBC News reports that Philip Morris has threatened to sue the Australian government over its plan to introduce plain, brandless packaging of cigarettes. Australian Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has pledged to introduce and pass the necessary legislation this year and have it operational on 1st January. Commercial branding will be banned and cigarette packs will be distinguishable only by printed brand names in a standard font and size on the top, front and bottom of the packets. Hong Kong-based Philip Morris Asia said the proposed legislation violates an investment treaty between Australia and Hong Kong. Philip Morris says the removal of trademarks devalues its intellectual property, in breach of the investment treaty. It argues the cigarette trade will be reduced to a commodity market where prices will be forced down, reducing its profitability and the value of its assets. The company said it had sent a legal notice to the Australian government setting a mandatory three-month period for the two sides to negotiate on the issue and warned that if no agreement was reached in that time, it would seek financial compensation. ‘Failing that we aim to go ahead with a compensation claim for the loss to our business in Australia that would result from plain packaging,’ said Philip Morris Asia spokeswoman Anne Edwards. In reply, Julia Gillard, Australian Prime Minister, said ‘We're not going to be intimidated by big tobacco's tactics, whether they're political tactics, whether they're public affairs kind of tactics out in the community or whether they're legal tactics’, and added ‘We're not taking a backward step. We've made the right decision and we'll see it through’.



The current Dutch government wants to curb drug tourism in the Netherlands, particularly in border towns, and has proposed turning the cannabis-selling coffee shops into membership clubs which are only open to Dutch residents, in order to prevent drug sales to foreigners. Coffee shops in Amsterdam and other parts of the country have argued against the plan, saying it is discriminatory and will hit the tourism industry. Reuters reports that the Council of State, the Netherlands' highest judicial body, ruled that local authorities could not regulate the sale of cannabis by banning foreigners from local coffee shops following complaints about noise and traffic nuisance, but it also added that such a ban could be introduced at national level and would not contravene European laws.



The Campaign to Stop Torture in Health Care has published two reports through the auspices of the Open Society Foundations about drug users needing treatment who are channelled into detention centres in China, Cambodia, Mexico and Russia. Rather than receiving medical care, drug users in these centres often face physical abuse, poor living conditions, solitary confinement and forced labour. The reports say that drug users rarely enter such detention centres voluntarily and, even if they do, they are nearly never allowed to leave of their own volition. Treated with Cruelty: Abuses in the Name of Rehabilitation provides first-person testimonies of drug users who have been detained in such centres located in China, Cambodia, Mexico, and Russia. The second publication, Treatment or Torture? Applying International Human Rights Standards to Drug Detention Centers, is written by legal experts from Human Rights Watch, Harm Reduction International, and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. These experts present the case that abuses in the detention centres constitute torture or at least cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment. Their analysis suggests governments must take action to close these facilities or risk not meeting their international obligations.



The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) International Program's redesigned website went live in June 2011, with new features to help provide more direct access to information for researchers worldwide. The revamping makes it easier to find information on NIDA International Program funding opportunities, fellowships, tools, and information and a new keyword feature allows for faster access to information by topic area. Through the website researchers can explore fellowship opportunities, connect with international drug abuse researchers and access free online training tools. Among these tools is the Publishing Addiction Research Internationally (PARINT) website, which primarily aims to help researchers and would-be researchers in countries and institutions that do not have a lengthy tradition of research to international standards to get their work published.



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Iggy was looking cheerfully greener than ever when she clattered along the corridor to deliver her latest copy to the editorial desk. ‘None so blind’, she murmured, ‘as your average liquorspeaker at full throttle’.

She writes:

None as blind as a drinks industry's spokesman in denial

I happened the other day to pick up the spring issue of UK Alcohol Alert[1], having been attracted by the cover picture of two British politicians, David C. and Nick C, laughing together like demented hyenas. Whoops, I must not get political. Back to business, Alcohol Alert reported a recent published debate between David Poley, Chief Executive of a well known liquor-backed organisation which sails under the name of the Portman Group, with Claire Harkins, who gave a public health view. Here's the nub of Mr Poley's message:

‘The health lobby favours restrictive measures on pricing, availability, advertising, and marketing in the belief that this will reduce overall levels of consumption. Leaving aside some of the flaws in that assumption . . . rather than impose these blunt, ineffective measures that impact on the moderate majority . . . one should instead educate consumers into drinking responsibly’.

Honestly, I'm not caricaturing the guy, these are his words. Note that his imagined enemy is a nefarious body called the ‘health lobby’. And rather than offering tangible evidence to refute the extensive and high quality international research base confirming that on strong balance of probabilities, pricing usually reduces population level of consumption and the related levels of population harm [2], he retreats instead to the weasel ‘leaving aside some of the flaws’ before going on confidently to ignore the scientific evidence and dismiss control measures as ‘blunt’ and ‘ineffective’. Well, speaking as an iguana, I rely on liquorspeakers to cause me merriment on a dull day and even perhaps reduce me to fits of hyena-like laughter. But for the Portman Group to engage once more in the attempt to propagate factual distortion as a substitute for a fair reading of the research base, can only discredit that organisation. Black is white, read any liquorspeaker's lips any day.

Read, however, the reasoned accompanying statement by Claire Harkins for a very capable exposition of the science.


We run a single limerick each month, chosen according to the Commissioning Editor and Editor-in-Chief's tastes. Please feel free to send us some should our pages inspire you to this form of poetry.

When the Eighteenth Amendment was passed,

All the Yankees who drank were aghast.

But obtaining a drink

Wasn't hard as you think,

As the bootleggers organized fast.

Sheila Blume


Beyond the Buzzword: Problematising ‘Drugs’, 3–4 October 2011, Prato, Italy. Hosted by Contemporary Drug Problems. Website:

Addiction Health Services Research (AHSR) 2011, 3–5 October 2011, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA. Website:

II International Congress on Dual Disorders, 5–8 October 2011, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

1st European Harm Reduction Network Meeting, 6–7 October 2011, Marseille, France. Website:

Addiction Medicine State of the Art 2011, 12–15 October 2011, Long Beach, California, USA. Website:

Attachment and Addiction, 15–16 October 2011, Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich, Germany. Website:

Addictive Disorders, 24 October – 5 November 2011, Neuroscience School of Advanced Studies, San Quirico d'Orcia, Siena, Italy. Website:

International Conference on Global Health and Public Health Education, 25–27 October 2011, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, SAR China. Website:

American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and Exposition, 29 October – 2 November 2011, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

ASAP (New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers) 13th Annual Conference, 30 October – 2 November 2011, New York Marriot at the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, New York, USA. Website:

7th National Conference on Tobacco or Health, 1–3 November 2011, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Website:

10th International Conference on Urban Health, 1–5 November 2011, Minascentro Convention Center, Belo Horizonte City, Brazil.

Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA) 35th Annual National Conference, 3–5 November 2011, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Website:, or contact Doreen Baeder at

CSAM 2011 Annual Meeting and Scientific Conference, 4–6 November 2011, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Website:

Issues of Substance 2011 (Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse National Conference), 6–9 November 2011, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Website:

Society for the Study of Addiction Annual Symposium, 10–11 November 2011, Park Inn, York, UK. Website:

Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting, 12–16 November 2011, Washington, DC, USA. Website:

Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and Other Drugs (APSAD) 2011 Conference, 13–16 November 2011, Hobart, Tasmania. Website:

54th International Council on Alcohol and Addictions (ICAA) International Conference on Alcohol and Addiction, 13–17 November 2011, BMA House, London, UK. Website:

4th International Congress on Psychopharmacology, 23–27 November 2011, Rixos Sungate Hotel Kemer, Antalya, Turkey. Website:

Global Addiction 2011, 5–7 December 2011, Lisbon, Portugal. Website:

European Society for Prevention Research (EUSPR) Conference 2011, 8–9 December 2011, Lisbon, Portugal. Website:

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry 22cd Annual Meeting and Symposium, 8–11 December 2011, Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA. Website:

20th European Congress of Psychiatry, 3–6 March 2012, Prague, Czech Republic. Website:

American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) 43rd Annual Medical-Scientific Conference, 19–22 April 2012, Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Website:

American Association for the Treatment Opioid Dependence (AATOD) National Conference, 21–25 April 2012, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Website:

College on Problems of Drug Dependence 74th Annual Meeting, 9–14 June 2012, La Quinta Resort and Club, Palm Springs, California, USA. 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;

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.