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Ketamine is to be upgraded to a class B drug, crime
prevention minister Norman Baker has confirmed. Baker
has written to Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
(ACMD) chair Sir Les Iversen to say that he accepts the
council’s recommendation that the drug be reclassified in
the light of health concerns and the numbers of people
seeking treatment (
, January, page 5).
The government will now consult to assess the impact
of reclassifying on the medical and health sectors, said
Baker, with the parliamentary process to reclassify to begin
‘shortly’. Excessive ketamine use has been associated with a
range of health harms including chronic bladder and other
urinary tract damage. However, Baker acknowledges in the
letter that ‘ketamine use in adults in the UK has gone
down in the past two years, although it is too early to
establish whether this downward trend will continue’.
Meanwhile, the latest figures from the National
Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (NPSAD) at St
George’s, University of London, show a 600 per cent
increase in the number of deaths caused by new
psychoactive substances between 2009 and 2012 – from
10 to 68. The prevalence of the new drugs in post-mortem
toxicology reports also increased from 12 cases to 97 over
the same period.
The total number of drug-related deaths reported to
NPSAD during 2012 was 1,613. Opiates – alone or in
combination with other drugs – accounted for 36 per cent,
up 4 per cent on 2011 and reversing the declining trend of
recent years (
, March 2013, page 5). There was also an
increase in the proportion
of deaths involving
stimulants including
cocaine, following a
decline in 2009 and
stabilisation in 2010.
London had the highest
proportion of cocaine-
related deaths at 15.2 per
cent, while Liverpool
recorded more drug-related
deaths than Manchester for
the first time since 2006.
The highest rates of drug-
related deaths per 100,000
adult population were in
the DAAT areas of Liverpool (12.57 per cent), Blackburn with
Darwen (11.45 per cent) and the London Borough of
Hammersmith and Fulham (11.34 per cent). More than 72
per cent of deaths were in males, and more than 67 per cent
in under-45s.
‘We have observed an increase in the number and
range of [novel psychoactive substances] in the post
mortem toxicology results and in the cause of death of
cases notified to us,’ said NPSAD spokesperson Professor
Fabrizio Schifano. Clearly this is a major public health
concern and we must continue to monitor this worrying
development. Those experimenting with such substances
are effectively dancing in a minefield.’
The International Narcotics Control Board
(INCB) has expressed ‘concern’ at US
initiatives to legalise the ‘non-medical and
non-scientific’ use of cannabis. Launching
its annual report, INCB president Raymond
Yans said the organisation ‘deeply
regretted’ developments in Colorado and
Washington, which ‘contravene the
provisions of the drug control conventions’.
INCB was ‘in denial’ of calls for a
meaningful debate on global drug policy,
however, said International Drug Policy
Consortium (IDPC) executive director Ann
Fordham. ‘The board is apparently oblivious
to the growing number of member states
questioning the status quo and exploring
alternative policies.’
INCB annual report
2013 at
Homelessness services are still failing to
support women effectively, says the final
report of the St Mungo’s
shattered lives
project, as they are
predominantly designed by, and for, men.
More than 10,000 women accessed UK
homelessness services last year, says the
document, with many more ‘hidden’
homeless. ‘This report evidences a sad
chronicle of missed opportunities where
women fail to get the help they need,’ said
St Mungo’s chief executive Charles Fraser.
‘National leadership is key.’
Report at
Prison drug recovery wings (DRWs) need to
be segregated from the wider
establishment, with clear referral pathways
and strong support from senior
management, says a new report from the
National Offender Management Service
(NOMS). Commissioners should also
consider delivering ‘a range of recovery-
focused interventions including accredited
drug treatment programmes’ as part of
their DRW regimes says the document,
which studies the five DRWs launched in
Drug recovery wings set up, delivery
and lessons learned: process study of first
tranche DRW pilot sites at
The London Drug and Alcohol Policy Forum
(LDAPF) has launched a new version of its
Vital info
guide to drugs and their
associated risks.
Available free in leaflet
form from or to
download at,
with an optimised web version coming soon.
March 2014 |
| 5
News |
Alcohol-related death rates in Scotland fell by 37 per cent
– from 39.5 to 24.8 per 100,000 population – in the ten
years to 2012, according to figures from the Office for
National Statistics (ONS). Death rates in England rose by 2
per cent over the same period, although at 14.7 per
100,000 population in 2012 they remain much lower
than Scotland’s.
There were 8,367 alcohol-related deaths in the UK
overall in 2012, 381 fewer than the previous year, with
males accounting for 65 per cent of the deaths. Death
rates were highest among men aged 60-64.
Meanwhile, a new modelling study from the Sheffield
Alcohol Research Group has concluded that minimum
pricing is an effective way to target high-risk drinkers, with
‘negligible’ effects on low-income, moderate drinkers.
‘Because harmful drinkers on low incomes purchase more
alcohol at less than the minimum unit price threshold
compared with other groups, they would be affected most’
by a policy of a minimum price of 45p per unit, says
of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on different income
and socioeconomic groups: a modelling study
. Much of the
opposition to minimum pricing has been based on the
impact it could have on moderate drinkers.
A 45p minimum price would mean an estimated 860
fewer alcohol-related deaths per year, says the study, and
nearly 30,000 fewer hospital admissions. The research
provided ‘further evidence’ of the effectiveness of the
policy, said director of the Centre for Public Health
Excellence at NICE, Professor Mike Kelly.
The Home Office has also announced 20 new ‘local
alcohol action areas’ across England and Wales, with
licensing authorities, health bodies and the police working
together to address drink-related crime and ill health. The
areas had ‘the potential to build strong evidence of what
works to tackle alcohol harms in the community’, said
director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England,
Professor Kevin Fenton.
Alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom, registered
in 2012 at
Effects of minimum unit pricing for alcohol on different
income and socioeconomic groups: a modelling study at
Scottish alcohol-related deaths fall
nearly 40 per cent in a decade
Government accepts ACMD’s
ketamine recommendation
Norman Baker