News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly


The European Commission announced in October that it plans new European legislation concerning illicit drugs, particularly the increasing number of new psychoactive substances, which imitate the effects of established drugs like ecstasy or cocaine. The EU indentified a record number of 41 of these synthetic drugs in 2010, up from 24 the previous year. These drugs are increasingly available over the internet and have rapidly spread in many Member States, which face difficulties in preventing their sale. The EU has already imposed controls on two substances, BZP and mephedrone, meaning member states must classify them as illicit.



In a paper for the American Journal of Public Health, ‘Global Alcohol Producers, Science, and Policy: The Case of the International Center for Alcohol Policies’, David Jernigan examines the ways alcohol producers seek to influence global and national alcohol policy using industry-funded organizations. The paper uses the activities of the International Center for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), an organisation supported by the major international producers of beverage alcohol, as an example of the relationship of leading alcohol producers with public health science and policy making. The paper calls for further development of an ethical stance regarding collaboration with industries that profit from unhealthy consumption of their products.



Following its earlier 2010 briefing note, The Impact of Introducing a Minimum Price on Alcohol, the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published a further briefing note, Alcohol Pricing and Taxation Policies. The briefing note calls for more evidence to inform the minimum pricing debate, in particular an assessment of how the retailers and manufacturers might respond to minimum pricing. The IFS estimates suggest that a 45p/unit minimum price would transfer £1.4 billion a year from drinkers to alcohol producers and retailers. The IFS concludes that if the intention is to raise the overall price of alcohol, it would seem preferable that these revenues flow to the Government instead.



The New York Times reports that the Drug Enforcement Administration(DEA) used its emergency scheduling authority in October to ban three synthetic stimulants used to make products that are marketed at ‘head shops’ and on the Internet as ‘bath salts,’ but are actually used as recreational drugs that imitate the effects of cocaine, LSD and methamphetamine. The emergency measure places these substances — mephedrone, methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) and methylone — under the DEA's most restrictive category for at least a year, while the DEA study whether they should be permanently banned. This classification is reserved for substances with high potential for abuse and no accepted use under medical supervision. These products, sometimes called plant food, are sold in powder or crystal form under names like Bliss, Purple Wave, Vanilla Sky and Ivory Wave. ‘This imminent action by the DEA demonstrates that there is no tolerance for those who manufacture, distribute, or sell these drugs anywhere in the country, and that those who do will be shut down, arrested, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,’ said DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, ‘DEA has made it clear we will not hesitate to use our emergency scheduling authority to control these dangerous chemicals that pose a significant and growing threat to our nation.’



The UNODC report Estimating illicit financial flows resulting from drug trafficking and other transnational organized crime suggests that amounts of illicit funds available for money-laundering are equivalent to around 2.7 per cent of global GDP or US$1.6 trillion in 2009. From this figure, money flows related to transnational organized crime activities represent the equivalent of some 1.5 per cent of global GDP, 70 per cent of which would have been available for laundering through the financial system, and the largest income for transnational organized crime seems to come from illicit drugs.



The Seattle Times reports that voters in Washington have approved Initiative 1183 that takes away the state's responsibility for alcohol sales. About half of the 328 stores that sell liquor in Washington are state-run, and they will stop selling liquor by June 1. The other half are owned by contractors, who can continue operating but must buy the existing inventory from the state. The state's liquor board will begin issuing licences to qualified liquor distributors and retailers, and on June 1 privately owned stores will begin selling liquor in Washington. The state budgeting office figures the number of outlets selling liquor will jump from 328 to 1428. It also expects the change to generate an average of $80 million more in annual revenue for the state and local governments over the next six years. The campaign pitted corporate interests against one another, with Costco contributing the vast majority of the financing money for the pro-1183 campaign and the coalition against 1183 financed mostly by wine and liquor distributors, who fear that liquor and wine deregulation in the measure will spread to other states. Tom Geiger, communication director for the union representing more than 700 workers in state-run liquor stores, said he thought the results raised questions about democracy itself. ‘If a private company decides to spend tens of millions of dollars to pass a new law, to buy an election, can they do it?’ Geiger asked. The results in this case, he said, suggest they can.



Pain Treatment Topics, a non-commercial resource for healthcare professionals and their patients, takes issue with data presented by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their recently launched campaign to alert the public about risks of opioid analgesics. Pain Treatment Topics fears that the CDC's presentation of data may be tilting away from a balanced perspective in order to incite fears of a so-called ‘epidemic’ of opioid misuse, overdoses, and deaths. While overdoses and deaths associated with strong analgesics are increasing, Pain Treatment Topics says it is not clear whether these trends represent an epidemic. The on-line critique also points up some of the shortcoming of the CDC's presentation of their data. For example, in reporting that there had been a 3-fold increase in number of deaths from 1999 – 2008 the CDC did not report the numbers of persons being prescribed, using, or misusing opioids during this respective time periods so the relative-rate increase could not be determined.



The New Directions in the Study of Alcohol Group (NDSAG) announces the inaugural Ron McKechnie Prize: a competition to submit a paper for publication in the New Directions Group edited Journal. The author of the winning article is also awarded a bursary to attend the 2012 NDSAG Conference.

In response to requests the deadline for submission has now been extended to 29 February 2012. Full details from the NDSAG website: or directly from the conference organiser Trevor McCarthy


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.’

Decanter (OEDILF Limerick #56190)

She drinks wine from a crystal decanter;

It sharpens her wit and her banter.

The evening wears on;

In the hours before dawn,

She degenerates into a ranter.


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:

Sixth Annual Conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, 30–31 May 2012, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. Website:

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

4th World Congress on ADHD: From Childhood to Adult Disease, 6–9 June 2012, Milan, Italy. 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 Congress of the Royal College of Psychiatrists ‘Psychiatry: Medicine and the Future’, 10–13 July 2012, Liverpool, UK. 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:

2nd 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:

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