News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly


Launched by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, the monthly CDC Vital Signs focuses on a single, important public health topic. The November release describes deaths from prescription painkillers as having reached epidemic levels in the USA in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin is now greater than those of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. In 2008, 15 000 people died after prescription painkiller overdoses in the US compared to 4000 people in 1999. CDC also reports that in 2010, about 12 million Americans (age 12 or older) reported nonmedical use of prescription painkillers in the past year.



The Sydney Morning Herald reports that, while the Labor Government's legislation on plain packaging of cigarettes is set to pass parliament, tobacco products won't be sold in olive-brown packages until the end of 2012, five months later than originally planned. Health Minister Nicola Roxon said the delay was necessary because it had taken longer than expected for the upper house to pass the legislation after it was quickly passed by the House of Representatives in August. Under the revised timetable, the preliminary provisions of the plain packaging legislation will now come into effect when they receive royal assent, rather than on 1 January. Manufacturers will have to produce plain packets from 1 October next year instead of 20 May, while retailers will be banned from selling any branded stock from 1 December instead of 1 July.



With the support of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the International AIDS Society (IAS) has established a research fellowship programme. The aim of the programme is to contribute to advances in the scientific understanding of drug use and HIV, and foster multinational research. The fellowship programme is awarded as a stipend of US$75 000 to a junior scientist for 18-month post-doctoral training, or to a well-established HIV researcher for an eight-month-long professional development training at leading host institutes excelling in HIV-related drug use research. Applications for the fellowship will open 8 December 2011 and close 10 February 2012.



A report from the UK Parliament House Of Commons Select Committee examining proposed changes to the public health system in England expressed serious doubts about the effectiveness of government health secretary Andrew Lansley's Public Health Responsibility Deal. Through this deal, businesses such as drinks makers and supermarket chains help shape the government's approach to public health, and thus potentially avoid being subjected to further legislation. The cross-party members of the Committee are ‘unconvinced the deal will be effective in obesity and alcohol abuse, and expect the Department of Health to set out how progress will be monitored and regulation applied if necessary.’ The committee, led by former Conservative health secretary Stephen Dorrell, believes ‘partnership with commercial organisations has a place’ but adds: ‘Those with a financial interest must not be allowed to set the agenda.’The Guardian reports that Ed Jessop, vice-president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said that, while voluntary action could help, laws requiring wearing of seatbelts, bans on tobacco ads, and an end to smoking in public places showed that only legislation can bring about some much-needed changes. ‘This “nudging” will take us so far, but further legislative measures in some areas, to ban transfats from all foods or to set minimum pricing for alcohol, are needed to protect the public's health and save lives; there's plenty of evidence for that.’



Reuters reports that Philip Morris has sued Norway's Ministry of Health and Care Services in the Oslo District Court, claiming a 2009 law requiring most stores to hide their cigarettes violates free trade principles that bind Norway as a member of the European Economic Area (EEA). As part of the case, the Oslo court asked the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court for an advisory ruling that was issued on September 12th. The tribunal in Luxembourg said restrictions to protect health were permitted under EEA rules, but that Norway's display ban might be a violation if less draconian measures would achieve the same goal. A Government attorney Kjetil Boe Moen said Norway's law remained strong after this ambiguous opinion while Philip Morris took the opinion as support for its challenge. The case resumes in December and the outcome of the case could set an international precedent.



Xinhua News Agency reports that Chinese health experts and tobacco control officers have initiated tobacco-free wedding campaigns in response to the country's indoor tobacco control policy. ‘Prohibiting smoking in wedding receptions is an effective way of raising public awareness,’ said Lu Yajuan, the head of the tobacco control project for the city's disease control and prevention centre. Xinhua says cigarettes and wines are essential at wedding banquets, where newlyweds visit each table and toast the guests to express their gratitude and the bride, in particular, lights a cigarette for each male guest. These rituals were challenged in March, when the country's Ministry of Health included a ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces in a revised regulation on health management. Campaigns promoting tobacco-free weddings were carried out in Shanghai Municipality and several provinces including Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Shandong.



US Federal prosecutors announced co-ordinated state-wide action against cannabis medical cannabis dispensaries in early October. According to the Los Angeles Times federal prosecutors are threatening to shut down dispensaries throughout California, sending letters that warn landlords to stop sales of the drug within 45 days or face the possibility that their property will be seized and they will be charged with a crime. The initiative will focus on dispensaries selected by the prosecutors. The move seems to indicate an escalation of enforcement efforts to support the US government's efforts to rein in the spread of cannabis dispensaries. ‘California's marijuana industry supplies the nation,’ said U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner, citing a 2009 federal study that 72 percent of marijuana plants eradicated nationwide were grown in California. ‘Huge amounts of marijuana grown here in this state is flowing east to other states, and huge amounts of money are flowing back in the opposite direction.’ The government has also put pressure on dispensaries by demanding back taxes and penalties after audits disqualified deductions for business expenses. Federal authorities also are encouraging banks to close accounts belonging to owners of dispensaries. ‘The intention regarding medical marijuana under California state law was to allow marijuana to be supplied to seriously ill people on a nonprofit basis,’ said U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag. ‘What we are finding, however, is that California's laws have been hijacked by people who are in this to get rich and don't care at all about sick people.’



The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) have produced guidance on seven interventions to reduce and prevent infectious diseases in the drug injecting population, Prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs. The interventions proposed range from the supply of injection equipment, testing and vaccination to the treatment of infections and drug dependence. The guidance sees these interventions as best applied in combination and ideally in the same venue for maximum effect. Prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs. EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Götz said: ‘A central message in today's report is that we now know how to prevent infections in this group. The challenge before us is to ensure that this understanding is translated into effective services. Europe can still do better in reducing the public health burden posed by these preventable diseases.’ The ECDC–EMCDDA joint publication is published together with a ‘Guidance in brief’ summary and with two technical reports providing a full assessment of the evidence to follow.



A new regulation to protect the rights of drug addicts in compulsory rehabilitation centres was launched in October according to the China Daily. The new regulation issued by the Ministry of Public Security replaced the old regulation from 2000. There has been concern about a number of preventable deaths during detoxification and the regulation seeks to introduce all-round protection for drug addicts and improve the management of rehabilitation centres. The regulation outlaws forced work for drug addicts and, if they are willing to work, their health condition has to be considered and they cannot work for more than six hours a day. In addition, the regulation ensures drug addicts' freedom and privacy of communication. It also requires all rehabilitation centres to set up around-the-clock monitoring systems to prevent patients from physical abuse and to prevent them from escaping. ‘Setting up a security system is considered an aspect of strict management,’ said Li Guifang, deputy director of the criminal defence committee of the All China Lawyers Association. ‘Some serious drug addicts may suffer from mental disorders, and their behaviour is sometimes out of control, so there are some security risks in drug addiction treatment centres,’ Li Guifang said. ‘Installing a security system will help the guards detect problems early and take effective measures.’



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. This month's limerick was 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.’

Cringe (OEDILF Limerick #52705)

When Vinny goes out on a binge,

Both his wife and his children will cringe.

When at night he is tight,

They will cower in fright,

As his mind is inclined to unhinge.


Group Relations Conference: Authority and Leadership in Recovery from Addiction, 13-15 January 2012, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois 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:

NIDAC Conference: Beyond 2012: Leading the Way to Action, 6-8 June 2012, Freemantle, Australia. 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:

Addiction Research and Therapy 2012, 20-22 August 2012, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. Website:

2cd National Cannabis Conference: From Genetics to Practice, 19-21 September 2012, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia. Website:

International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) Annual Meeting, 13-17 October 2012, Geneva, Switzerland. Website:

25th ECNP Congress, 13-17 October 2012, Vienna, Austria. 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.