News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly


The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has released a definition of addiction that states ‘Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry.’ The ASAM is a professional body with around 3,000 members. ASAM's past president Dr. Michael Miller who was involved in the development of ASAM's definition commented ‘At its core, addiction isn't just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It's a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas. Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It's about underlying neurology, not outward actions.’ A Lancet editorial while noting that the new definition could help destigmatise addiction, warned that it might also lead to overmedicalisation of addiction, provide less hope for patients and prevent governments from tackling social issues that increase the risk of addiction.



The Peruvian government says it has suspended coca eradication efforts in Huallaga, a major coca growing area in the country. According to the BBC the new Head of Peru's anti-narcotics agency Devida Ricardo Soberon said the new government would halt eradication in Huallaga while it re-evaluated the programme, adding that previous eradication efforts had had little effect The election manifesto of new Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, who came into office in July, spoke of decriminalising coca farming and low-level cocaine processing and smuggling. Carlos Tapia, chief of the advisory cabinet to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, confirmed in the Peruvian Times that the government plans a new strategy to replace forced coca crop eradication. ‘We are planning to produce a change in the strategy because the previous strategy has not reduced coca cultivation and instead the export of cocaine has increased exponentially. So, to sustain a strategy that has led us to failure is not an intelligent attitude. We are planning a new strategy that will combine eradication —which can be forced or agreed upon— with alternative development and State presence in the area.’



The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime's 2011 Global ATS Assessment reports that while heroin, cocaine and cannabis seizures remained largely stable between 2005 to 2009, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) seizures (with the exception of ecstasy which remained constant) showed a distinct increase over the same period. ‘The ATS market has evolved from a cottage-type industry typified by small-scale manufacturing operations to more of a cocaine or heroin-type market with a higher level of integration and organized crime groups involved throughout the production and supply chain,’ said UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov. ‘We are seeing manufacturing shifting to new markets and trafficking routes diversifying into areas previously unaffected by ATS.’ Between 2008 and 2009 ATS laboratories seized in East and South-East Asia increased from 288 to 458. Methamphetamine may also be expanding into Europe with several countries reporting an increase in its use and production and manufacture is also increasingly being reported from Central and South America, with laboratories dismantled in Brazil, Guatemala and Nicaragua.



According to Tobacco Reporter the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance, the Institute for Natural Resources (INR) and Technology Studies and the Institute of Legislative Affairs (ILA) have proposed that the Kenyan government establish a KSh25 billion fund that would over five years help about 20,000 tobacco farmers switch to alternative agricultural activities. The capital for the fund would come from raising the excise tax on tobacco products from 42 per cent to 70 per cent of the retail price. The ILA said the tax increase would raise cigarette prices by at least 10 per cent. The INRS co-ordinator, Samuel Agonda Achola, said the institute's studies had found that fish and livestock rearing, beekeeping, and bamboo, soybean and cereal farming were viable alternatives to tobacco cultivation. BAT Kenya has contracts with 17,500 small-scale farmers to cultivate tobacco and its chairman warned the Kenyan Trade Minister during a recent meeting that this ‘propaganda war’ on tobacco farming and the trade in tobacco products would result in ‘job cuts, salary downsizing and lower tax for the exchequer.’


The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) reports that the value of Scotch whisky exports increased by 22% in the first six months of 2011. While the USA remains the main market, Asia and South America have seen substantial increases in sales. The SWA said that, taken on an annualised basis, overall sales of whisky for June 2010 to July 2011 had increased by around 5%, compared with 19% for the six months to July 2011. The SWA said this lower figure reflected the global economic uncertainty at the end of 2010. The Scottish Government's Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead commented ‘The news that whisky exports have rocketed by a quarter is absolutely phenomenal. . . . We have great ambition for exports from Scotland. Other industries should be learning from the long term strategy and continuing investment of the Scotch Whisky industry’. In the Guardian Gavin Hewitt, the SWA's chief executive, said whisky was now a ‘main driver’ for the UK in building overseas markets and that the SWA's activities in breaking down trade barriers and strengthening legal protections for the Scotch brand in India and Turkey had been essential. The Guardian suggests that SWA's comments may be significant in the light of the Scottish government's plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcoholic drinks. The SWA, in criticising the government's plans, fears that price controls could undermine their efforts to negotiate import tariffs and protectionism in overseas markets.



The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows that 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or older (8.9 percent of the population) were current illicit drug users. The rate of use in 2010 was similar to the rate in 2009 (8.7 percent), but remained above the 2008 rate (8.0 percent). The rate of current illicit drug use among young adults aged 18 to 25 rose from 19.6 percent in 2008 to 21.2 percent in 2009 and 21.5 percent in 2010. This increase was largely driven by a rise in the rate of current cannabis use among this population.



The New York Times reports widespread concern about the popularity and adverse effects of ‘bath salts’, a ‘legal high’ available in powder and crystal form for $25 to $50 per 50-milligram packet at convenience stores and ‘head’ shops. They are labelled ‘not for human consumption,’ which is intended to help them avoid falling foul of the US federal Analog Act, under which any substance ‘substantially similar’ to a banned drug is deemed illegal if it is intended for consumption. Poison control centres around the USA received 3,470 calls about bath salts from January through June, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, up from 303 in all of 2010. At least 28 states have banned bath salts. Bath salts contain chemicals like mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone, chemicals that were subject to an emergency ban in the UK in April 2010 after ‘legal highs’ received substantial media coverage. In March the Drug Enforcement Administration used emergency powers to temporarily ban five chemicals used in synthetic cannabis, which is sold in the same types of shops as bath salts and the agency has been called upon to enact a similar ban on the chemicals in bath salts.



The New York Times reports on a coercive approach to drug treatment that involves locking up patients in a room with double-decker bunks so that they have no choice but to deal with withdrawal on their own, sustained by just bread and water or gruel. Once out of the room, known as the quarantine room, patients work at menial jobs, lift weights or cook in a regimen of continued isolation from the rest of the world that staff members said usually takes a year. A staff member at the centre, which is run by a private group called City Without Drugs, said ‘we lock people up, but mostly we have a written request from their family. The police couldn't do this, because it's against the law.’ Yevgeny Roizman, a founder of the programme in 1999 described the principle of the approach as ‘just to stop taking drugs and tough it out.’ Roizman added that the ‘most important thing is to force them to quit and keep them clean a certain time, so the system cleans itself out, if they behave, they can go home.’ Despite criticism from Human Rights Watch and drug treatment experts within Russia, such harsh measures seem to have the support of both the public and government officials. With the ban on methadone treatment in Russia and the absence of government treatment services it appears that those seeking treatment for their drug problems have a bleak future



We run a single limerick each month (though this month we are running two related limericks), 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. This month's limericks were penned by Professor Sheila Blume, writing as SheilaB, as part of The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form (OEDILF, website:, an online limerictionary with the goal of publishing ‘at least one limerick for each meaning of each and every word in the English language.’

Denyingly (OEDILF Limerick #55423)

‘I don't drink,’ said O'Brien quite lyingly.

‘Sure you do,’ said his counselor, sighingly.

‘Well, OK. I drink beer,

One or two – have no fear –

Not a problem,’ he uttered denyingly.

Denial (OEDILF Limerick #56530)

The counselor heard the man utter

In an innocent tone, soft as butter,

A clear-cut denial,

And replied with a smile,

‘Let's first get you out of the gutter.’


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:

SRNT 18th Annual Meeting, 13–16 March 2012, Hilton Americas Houston Hotel, Houston, Texas, USA. Website:

15th World Conference on Tobacco or Health, 20–24 March 2012, Suntec Singapore, Singapore. Website:

5th Annual Psychopharmacology Institute and ISPN 14th Annual Conference, 27–31 March 2012, Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia. Website:

Addiction Medicine 2012 Conference, 30–31 March 2012, Asheville, North Carolina, USA. Website:

12th Social Research Conference on HIV, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases, 12–13 April 2012, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. 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:

2012 Annual Idaho Conference on Alcohol and Drug Dependency, 14–17 May 2012, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA. Website:

Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) 34th Annual Conference, 22–25 May 2012, Reno, Nevada, USA. Website:

Europad 12th International Conference: Heroin Addiction and Related Clinical Problems, 25–27 May 2012, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

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

International Narcotics Research Conference 2012, 14–20 July 2012, Hyatt Regency Hotel, Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Website:

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