News and Notes

Compiled by John Witton and Jean O'Reilly

Hubert H. Humphrey fellowship program

Applications are being accepted for the 2013–2014 Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program. The Humphrey Fellowship Program provides a year of non-degree study and professional development in the United States for early and midcareer professionals from designated countries around the world. The Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by the Institute of International Education. Candidates in the field of substance abuse education, treatment, and prevention are placed at either Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland or Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. The fellowship includes payment of tuition, a living allowance, air travel, and insurance, among other costs. To apply for this program, contact either a Binational Fulbright Commission or the U.S. Embassy located in country of residence. Advice on preparing a competitive application is available from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at


Singapore plans changes to mandatory death sentences

BBC News Asia reports that Singapore is to change its law so that convicted drug couriers no longer receive a mandatory death sentence. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Teo Chee Hean, told Singapore's parliament that the government will seek to give judges the discretion to instead award life imprisonment with caning to drug couriers if they co-operate with authorities or have a mental disability. The legislation is expected to be introduced by the end of the year and death row convicts would be able to seek resentencing. However, the mandatory death penalty will continue to apply in most cases, particularly for those who manufacture or traffic in drugs and those who fund, organise or abet drug trafficking.


British government minister sees little progress in ‘war on drugs’

The Daily Telegraph reports that Kenneth Clarke, a leading member of the Conservative party in Britain and Justice Secretary in the current Coalition government, has told a parliamentary committee that drug policy is not working. Mr Clarke told the Home Affairs Select Committee, that ‘I have not reached the stage of that blinding insight about exactly how we are going to improve our record, is the honest truth. We have been engaged in a war against drugs for 30 years. We're plainly losing it. We have not achieved very much progress. The same problems come round and round. I have frankly conceded that policy has not been working. We are all disappointed by the fact that far from making progress it could be argued we are going backwards at times.’ However he added: ‘The Government has no intention whatever of changing the criminal law on drugs.’


Tobacco scientist wins case against illegal sacking

Tobacco industry influence has until recently been strong in French politics; but perhaps this will change with the new government. The Sarkozy government presided over an increase in prevalence from 27% in 2005 to 29% in 2010 – at a time when prevalence has been declining in major western countries. This will lead to many thousands of avoidable deaths. But in May 2012 scientists fighting to protect lives against this onslaught won a small but important victory.

By way of background, in November 2009, Gérard Dubois, a professor of public health at Amiens University Hospital, was sued for libel by the French tobacconists' union because he stated on television that cigarettes kill two smokers each year for every tobacconist in the country [1]. His university declined to support him, but thankfully the ‘Comité National Contre le Tabagisme’ a non-governmental organisation took up his case. The French tobacconists lost but not until after they had taken the case before the Court of Appeal which upheld the original decision in November 2011. Soon after the start of this attempt to prevent public health scientists from speaking the truth, in December 2009 Alain Braillon, a tenured senior consultant in Professor Dubois' unit, was removed from his post by the hospital board. The Ministry of Health enforced the sacking against the advice of the National Statutory Committee [1, 2]. Now, in May this year, the Paris Administrative Court has ordered the sacking to be cancelled on the grounds that it was illegal.

It is worth remembering in all this that public health scientists do their work out of a deep concern for their fellow humans, and are willing to expose themselves to stress and hardship in support of these values. By contrast, the tobacco industry continues to demonstrate how little the suffering of smokers and their families mean when it comes to the quest for profit. Hopefully this episode will remind public bodies in France and elsewhere where their responsibility lies.

Global drug consumption is stable says world drug report

Between 2005 and 2010 the level of illegal drug consumption is estimated to have stayed at between 3.4 and 6.6% of the adult population worldwide according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's World Drug Report 2012. Cocaine consumption dropped from 3% in 2006 to 2.2% in 2010 in the US but stabilised in Europe and grew in Australia. While coca output in Colombia fell between 2006–2010, this decline was offset by a shift of production to Peru and Bolivia. The report notes a shift in drug consumption from developed to developing countries, with growing drug use in regions such as Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Oceania. The report also draws attention to the increased production of synthetic drugs such as mephedrone, developed to remain outside international control.


Decriminalization in colombia

Colombia Reports that Colombia's Constitutional Court has approved the government proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and cannabis for personal use. The Supreme Court had ruled in 2011 that strict anti-drug laws introduced by the administration of the former government led by Alvaro Uribe were unconstitutional. In response to the legislative void created by the court's ruling, the administration of current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos introduced decriminalization as part of 2011's Citizen Security Law, or law 1453, which sought to address a wide variety of public safety issues ranging from child trafficking to soccer hooligan violence. The court ruled that anyone caught with less than 22 grams of cannabis or one gram of cocaine for personal use may receive physical or psychological treatment depending on their level of intoxication, but may not be prosecuted or detained.


Report on recovery-orientated treatment

England's national drug strategy has as one of its main aims to help more heroin users deal with their addiction and ‘recover’ from their dependence. The strategy is based on the idea that too many people remain on a substitute prescription when it should be the first step on the road to recovery. An expert group comprising GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, service users, and providers from both the NHS and voluntary sectors was convened by the government to develop a consensus on how prescribing-based treatment for heroin addiction could be made more recovery-oriented in line with the strategy. The expert group's report Medications in Recovery: Re-orientating Drug Dependence Treatment proposed that heroin addicts should not be placed indefinitely on substitute drugs, such as methadone, and all prescribing treatments should be regularly reviewed. However, the group rejected imposing time-limits on treatment and that arbitrarily curtailing or limiting the use of substitute medication would prevent addicts from sustaining their recovery, and most likely lead to increases in the spread of blood-borne viruses, drug-related deaths and crime. The report highlights the importance of building on the ‘recovery capital’ someone needs in order to attain and sustain their recovery and describes how treatment can support recovery.


Drug consumption rooms legal in denmark

Independent consultant Blaine Stothard reports that on 13 June 2012 the Danish parliament voted into law legislation enabling local authorities to establish drug consumption rooms, or to commission voluntary agencies to do so on their behalf. The law provides for users to inject or smoke their drugs in the consumption rooms. Consumption rooms will have to be staffed by qualified medical and health practitioners; and will be equipped with naloxone. The proposed legislation was introduced by the Ministry for Health and Prevention on 9 May 2012, following the formation of a Social Democrat-led coalition government in September 2011 whose constituent parties had pledged to introduce such a law while in opposition. The passing of this law is the culmination of a long campaign by, amongst others, BrugerForening (The Danish Drugs Users Union), Fixerum and Gadejuristen (Street Lawyers—tag-line ‘hard core harm reduction.) The unifying aspect of their campaigning is the high death-rate amongst IDUs in Denmark—around 260 annually in recent years in a country with a population of around five and a half million. Jørgen Kjær, chair of BrugerForening, believes that this legislation is the first of its kind setting out enabling powers at a national level: drug consumption rooms in other countries operate on a licensed basis.

Progress report on alcohol labelling in the uk

PackagingNews reports that alcohol producers are providing health information on 60% of alcohol labels in the UK. As part of the UK government's responsibility deal, alcohol producers have committed that three core labelling elements, clear unit content, NHS guidelines and a warning about drinking when pregnant, will appear on 80% of drinks. The Portman Group, who were given responsibility for monitoring the pledge, say more companies are expected to confirm their pledges in the coming months. As a posting on Alcohol Policy UK notes, the UK alcohol industry has attempted voluntary agreements to improve alcohol labelling in the past, but failed to make much progress. A 2009 independent report for the Department of Health said just 15 per cent of drinks gave consumers sufficient information as per the voluntary code, whereas an Alcohol Concern report Message on a Bottle also published in 2009 put the figure at only 4% of the products reviewed.


Conferences and events

Cutting Edge, 6–8 September 2012, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington, New Zealand. Website:

25th Annual National Prevention Network (NPN) Prevention Research Conference, 18–21 September 2012, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Website:

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

Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM) 2012 Annual Meeting & Scientific Conference, 20–22 September 2012, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Website:

American College of Clinical Pharmacology (ACCP) Annual Meeting, 23–25 September 2012, San Diego, California, USA. Website:

International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE) Annual Meeting, 26–29 September 2012, Lisbon, Portugal. Website:

9th Annual Conference of the International Network on Brief Interventions for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (INEBRIA) – From Clinical Practice to Public Health: Two Dimensions of Brief Interventions, 27–28 September 2012, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

Canadian Psychiatric Association Annual Conference, 27–29 September 2012, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Website:

National Conference on Addiction Disorders, 28 September – 2 October 2012, Orlando, Florida, USA. Website:

Harm Reduction International's ACCESS Conference: Drug Users in Custody: Learning the Lessons, 5–6 October 2012, Milan, Italy. Website:

Gender and Sexualities: Revisioning Drug and Alcohol Research, 10–12 October 2012, Centre for Alcohol & Drug Research, Aarhus University, Denmark. Website:

25th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress, 13–17 October 2012, Vienna, Austria. Website:

International Society of Addiction Medicine (ISAM) Annual Meeting, 14–18 October 2012, Geneva, Switzerland. Website:

14th Annual Meeting of the International Society of Addiction Medicine, 14–18 October 2012, Geneva, Switzerland. Website:

The Addiction Health Services Research (AHSR) Conference, 17–19 October 2012, Desmond Tutu Conference Center, New York, New York, USA. Website:

Traitement de la dépendance aux opioïdes: Troisième colloque francophone, 18–19 October 2012, Geneva, Switzerland. Website:

City Health 2012: Creating Healthy Opportunities in the 21st Century, 22–23 October 2012, London, UK. Website:

Substance Misuse Management in General Practise (SMMGP) 7th National Primary Care Development Conference, 25 October 2012, London, UK. Website:

14th Spanish National Conference on Dual Disorders, 25–27 October 2012, Madrid, Spain. Website:

American Public Health Association (APHA) 140th Annual Meeting and Exposition, 27–31 October 2012, San Francisco, California, USA. Website:

Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse (AMERSA), 36th Annual National Conference, 1–3 November 2012, Bethesda, Maryland, USA. Website:, or contact Doreen:

2cd Asia Pacific Behavioral and Addiction Medicine (APBAM) Conference, 1–3 November 2012, Singapore, Singapore. Website:

54th International Conference on Alcohol and Addictions, 12–16 November 2012, Montreal, Canada. Website:

The 9th National Harm Reduction Conference: From Public Health to Social Justice, 15–18 November 2012, Portland, Oregon, USA. Website:

Plotting a New Course: 2cd Annual Conference on Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco, 26–27 November 2012, London, UK. Website:

American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry 23rd Annual Meeting and Symposium, 6–9 December 2012, Aventura, Florida, USA. Website:

21st European Congress of Psychiatry, 6–9 April 2013, Nice, France. Website:

Canadian Psychiatric Association Annual Conference, 26–28 September 2013, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Website:

26th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress, 5–9 October 2013, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

3rd International Congress on Dual Disorder, 23–26 October 2013, Barcelona, Spain. Website:

American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence (AATOD) National Conference, 9–13 November 2013, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 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; 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.