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Drug News



 New Psychoactive Substances (aka ‘synthetics’) update

October 2nd 2013  Australian Drug Foundation
New psychoactive substances (NPS) are being developed at an unprecedented rate and have become a major issue of concern around the world. Governments are struggling to respond and laws are constantly changing. This alert provides an update on what’s happening in Australia and New Zealand.  

NPS are also known as synthetic drugs, new and emerging drugs (NEDs), legal highs, herbal highs, research chemicals, drug analogues, and synthetic cannabis.

Australian legislation update

Over the last month the New South Wales (NSW) Government has brought in new laws to ban NPS. The laws bring selling and possessing NPS under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act 1985 and means a ‘blanket ban’ on anything that has a psychoactive effect other than alcohol, tobacco and food. It will also result in more enforcement powers including tougher penalties. Last week the South Australia (SA) Government introduced similar laws to parliament. These approaches follow the one taken in Queensland earlier this year.
The SA Government has identified that a national approach is still needed to respond to the sale of NPS online.
Using the misuse of drugs acts is a very different approach to the current interim bans in place under federal, SA and NSW consumer law, which are listed on the Product Safety Australia website. These bans require the constant addition of newly identified substances and often it is difficult for the law to stay ahead of new drugs. There is also less enforcement powers associated with consumer law than the misuse of drugs.
New Zealand legislation update

New Zealand has recently taken a very different approach to Australia. Earlier this year New Zealand passed legislation that will enable the regulation of NPS as legal products. While the regulatory system is being developed a number of interim retail and product licences have been granted for untested NPS. However, a number of these licences have recently been revoked demonstrating that interim period regulations and enforcement powers are in place.   
Summary of the New Zealand Psychoactive Substances Bill

The New Zealand Psychoactive Substances Bill sets up a legal framework for the testing, manufacture, sale and regulation of NPS.Health and harm minimisation are included in the Act.

•  The New Zealand Psychoactive Substances Bill sets up a legal framework for the testing, manufacture, sale and regulation of NPS.
•  Health and harm minimisation are included in the Act.
•  Restrictions will be placed on the advertising, marketing and age of purchase (18+).
•  Rigorous clinical testing of products will be implemented to determine if they are ‘low risk’.
•  Animal testing can only be used if there is no alternative.
•  If a product is made available and is later found to ‘cause harm’ the product can be removed from the market.
•  A register of all products will be available publicly.
•  A code of practice for manufacturers and retail suppliers will be implemented.
The Australian Drug Foundation will monitor the progress of these legislative changes and provide updates through DrugInfo Alert.
Overview of the critical issues
•  NPS are designed to mimic existing illicit drugs.
•  NPS have proliferated in recent years and 250 have been identified worldwide.
•  The financial value of the trade in NPS in Australia is estimated at $600 million per annum.
•  Little is known about the long term effects of NPS or their chemical structure.
•  Distribution via the internet reduces the capacity of governments to control the supply.
•  Past government responses have become redundant as NPS manufacturers avoid the law by changing the chemical structure of existing NPS.

Health and safety

Reports of non-fatal overdoses from NPS are increasing and there appears to be a need for specific health and safety advice for alcohol and other drug clients and the broader public.
Use of a NPS always carries some risk, especially as it is hard to know exactly what the substance is, or how strong it is. Using an NPS is always more dangerous when:

•  The whole dose is taken at once or multiple doses are taken over a short period.
•  It is combined with another substance such as alcohol or cannabis.
•  It is used alone, or in the company of a person who is affected by alcohol or other drugs.
•  It is taken by a person who is affected by a mental health problem.


New report: A snapshot of our drinking habits

The recently released 2011-12 Australian Bureau of Statistics report on alcohol consumption shows some interesting trends for the nation. These include:

  • We drank 183.5 million litres of pure alcohol in 2011-12 compared to 184.9 million litres in 2010-11 – a decrease of 0.8%.
  • The decrease was mainly due to a drop in spirits (down 4.0%), ‘ready to drink’ beverages (down 2.5%) and beer (down 2.3%). In contrast, wine consumption was up by 1.9%.
  • Beer is still the most popular drink but wine is getting closer. The breakdown by alcohol type for 2011-12 is:
    • beer 41%
    • wine 38%
    • spirits 13%
    • ‘ready to drink’ beverages 7%.
  • The biggest shifts over the last 50 years is a decrease in beer consumption from 75% of the market to 41%, and an increase in wine from 12% to 38%.

Full report:  Australian Bureau of Statistics 2013 Apparent consumption of alcohol, Australia, 2011-12


Police Patrols boost backs new lock-out laws for licensed venues

2nd October 2013

Police at night in Hindley Street

More police will patrol nightspot areas of Adelaide this weekend to help monitor a new liquor code-of-conduct.

There are now lock-out provisions for licensed venues, meaning no one else can be allowed in after 3:00am.

There is a ban on outdoor drinking after 2:00am, and other alcohol limits after 4:00am, all as part of efforts to tackle alcohol-related violence and crime.

Assistant Police Commissioner Linda Williams said an increased police presence on the streets will play its part in helping people understand the new rules.

"What we are doing is putting extra resources in with an education focus," she said.

"[We are] educating both the public and obviously the licensees are well aware of what's occurring, but giving people an opportunity to understand what the amendments mean and to be able to comply with them."

Liquor and Gambling Commissioner Paul White said businesses would be given four weeks' grace to adjust to the changes.

"We're going through an education period or phase for the first four weeks, but after that we'll definitely be taking disciplinary action if they fail to meet the code," he said.

"The code's a regulation under the law and certainly my office intends to work with licensees as best we can, but if we have to enforce it we're going to enforce it."

Hotels wary of regulations

Ian Horne of the Australian Hotels Association is keen to see review after the new laws have been in place for a year.

"We've never been a particularly strong supporter of lock-outs simply because we don't believe they've been tested and we think in fact there's the potential to create other unforseen problems," he said.

"We would hope that over the next 12 months that a genuine assessment is done.

"The vast majority of violent issues happen outside licensed premises. It's an incredibly complex issue and the fear is that politicians look for silver bullets or react because elections are coming but there's been a multitude of models tried around Australia or around the world, this isn't a unique situation for Adelaide or Australia for that matter."

Attorney-General John Rau said the measures had firm community support.

"What's uppermost in my mind is the interests of the public and making sure we do something about controlling excessive drinking," he said.

"I think most people in the community I've spoken to have the view that if you haven't had enough to drink by 3 o'clock or you wish to continue drinking where you are after 3 o'clock then that's a fair enough thing."

An extra 20 bus services will run on Saturday nights and into Sunday morning as part of the focus on avoiding problems at city nightspots.


Victorian inquiry hears of a recent significant rise in the use of the illicit drug 'ice'

Mon 30 Sep 2013

Methlyamphetamine, otherwise known as Ice
Photo: Police figures have revealed a spike in 'ice'-related violent crimes. (NSW Police: AAP)

A drug expert has warned use of the drug, ice, has increased significantly in Victoria over the past two years.

A Parliamentary inquiry into the drug 'ice' has begun in Melbourne and will look at the supply and distribution of crystal methylamphetamine in Victoria.

It will also focus on the prevalence of the drug in the State's regional areas.

John Ryan is the Chief Executive of Anex, a not-for-profit group which tries to prevent drug-related harm.

He has told the inquiry there are about 23,000 known ice users in the state ranging in age from their early teens to late 60s.

"That 23 thousand is obviously before the significant increase that we've seen in the last two years." he told the inquiry.

"So we're talking about quite a large population that's directly consuming.

"Some of whom will be addicted, some of whom will be using on the weekends, once a month or once every three months." he said.

New approach needed to combat the 'ice' scourge

Mr Ryan told the inquiry a new approach is needed to tackling the highly addictive substance.

"There's a traditional instinct which is that we can arrest our way out of this problem,"

"Methylamphetamine is much easier to produce and so whilst the manufacture can be decentralised, the detection is much more difficult.

"So we do need a linked up approach which is to combine policing with drug treatment and health and safety messages," said Mr Ryan.

The inquiry has heard outlaw motorcycle gangs are behind up 90 percent of ice production.


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Calls for Australian family drug treatment court

ABC News | 28th January 2013

There are calls for a dedicated Family Drug Treatment Court to be established for the first time in Australia

The call comes from a Magistrate with over 20 years experience in Victoria's Children's Court, where he's seen first hand the long terms effects of separating children from their parents affected by substance abuse.

Correspondent: Alison Caldwell

Speakers: Greg Levine, magistrate, Victorian Children's Court; Mary Wooldridge, Australian Minister for Community Services and Mental Health

ALISON CALDWELL: For over two decades Victorian Children's Court magistrate Greg Levine has seen the damaging long-term effects of separating children from their parents, for the most part due to long term substance abuse, and he wants to do something about it.

Full Article

Drinking down but still a casual attitude

The Australian | 25th January 2013

AUSTRALIANS are drinking less frequently and are more concerned about problem drinking but still appear to have a "she'll be right" attitude towards their own habits.  

A new survey published by DrinkWise Australia shows more people recognise issues around alcohol misuse compared with five years ago.

But Drinkwise chairwoman Trish Worth said on Friday there was an increased perception by people that they were still in control even after they had a lot to drink.

The survey showed 66 per cent of respondents were concerned their drinking could harm them and people around them, up five per cent on five years ago.

Seventy seven per cent also believed Australian society had a drinking problem, up seven per cent since 2008.

More people also thought there should be stricter enforcement for being drunk and disorderly in public (84 per cent, up 10 per cent).

Full Article

Vic plan to tackle alcohol and drug abuse

The West Australian | 25th January 2013

Growing up in a `normal' family, Jessie Cooke thought drug and alcohol addicts were old men on park benches.

But once she hit 16, Ms Cooke began on the path to becoming an addict herself.

"I felt deeply alone and confused and, at times, terrified," she told reporters at The Alfred hospital in Melbourne on Friday, during the state government's launch of a strategy to reduce alcohol and drug abuse.

Ms Cooke, now aged 28, said people of all ages can fall into the trap of drug and alcohol addiction.

"It's important for people to understand that addiction doesn't discriminate," she said.

She described herself as a normal kid from a good family.

"I grew up believing that alcoholics and drug addicts were old men on park benches, not young people like myself," Ms Cooke said.

Full Article

Why Caroline won't be boozing on Australia Day

The Daily Telegraph | 24th January 2013

MY name is Caroline and I'm a non-drinker. Many a week goes by without a drop passing my lips. I can't even remember the last time I was drunk.

And that's why I'm dreading Australia Day this weekend, not because I don't want to celebrate this wonderful country but because it's now considered un-Australian not to get wasted in doing so.

This confession is not an easy one to make. In a culture whose identity is inextricably linked with grog, admitting you're not really into the stuff raises more eyebrows than glasses. We're wowsers, party poopers, prudish, frigid, boring, and I don't even have an alcoholic parent or developing foetus to blame.

This isn't about stopping others from having fun and I'm not opposed to the odd glass of white or espresso martini when the mood strikes. I'm wild like that.

But what is lamentable is the pressure laid on non-drinkers who don't follow the mob. When one person in a social circle is sober, it seems to make drinkers uncomfortable. When a friend stands up to get the next round, my refusal is perceived as a personal affront."But why not? Caaaarn, just one moooore," they slur.

Full Article

Don't drink alcohol? You're un-Australian say Gen Y | 23rd January 2013

PREDICTING whether or not you will have a drink this Australia Day comes down to your gender, age and what state you come from.

New data from alcohol abstinence advocates Febfast has revealed that more men than women associate having a drink with being inherently Australian.

Ditto the younger generation, with 28 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds more likely to knock back a beer or two while celebrating our national holiday. That's compared with 12 per cent of Australians who are 55 years and over who don’t see drinking alcohol as a necessary part of being an Australian.

Northern Territorians and South and West Australians were found to be the most passionate members of both these groups. According to Febfast, 43 per cent of Northern Territorians see having a beer as important part of our national identity, closely followed by 33 per cent of South Australians and 25 per cent of Western Australians.

Full Article

'Ice' users likely to suffer psychosis on drug, study finds

The Sydney Herald |10th January 2013

USERS of methamphetamine, or ''ice'', are five times likelier to suffer psychotic symptoms while taking the drug, according to a groundbreaking new Australian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry (JAMA Psychiatry).

The study's lead author, Dr Rebecca McKetin, said that ''there have always been questions about causality from those who say methamphetamine users aren't 'turned mad' by the drug but have a pre-existing psychotic condition. What's unique about this study is that it excludes those users and still finds such a strong link between use and psychotic symptoms in a large cohort over a period of years''.

Dr McKetin, formerly of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre in Sydney and now at the Australian National University, said she was surprised by the strength of the results but that they will ''come as no surprise to police officers in Kings Cross who report anecdotally about users who will 'go mad' one day and not the next''.

Full Article

Govt warns about ciggie packet cover-ups

The Australian | 10th January 2013

TOBACCO companies that try to circumvent the government's cigarette plain-packaging laws with branded tins or stickers that hide graphic health warnings will face legal action, the federal health minister warns.   

"If people deliberately flout these laws, then we will consider and potentially take legal action against them," Health Minister Tanya Plibersek said on Thursday.

The world-first laws to make all cigarettes be sold in drab olive-brown packs came into force on December 1.

Ms Plibersek said early anecdotal evidence revealed the new packaging was having a psychological effect on smokers.

As part of the government's goal to prevent smoking-related cancer deaths in Australia, the Commonwealth was willing to take companies to court to make sure they complied with packaging laws, the minister said.

Full Article 

Smokers face new restrictions in outdoor areas

ABC News | 7th January 2013

Anti-smoking advocates say strict new laws that come into force in New South Wales today banning smoking at many outdoor venues, will help reduce the health impacts on non-smokers.

Smoking will be banned at bus stops, children's playgrounds, swimming pools and other public places - with big fines for those who flout the rules.

Many of these measures are already in place through council regulations, but the laws now apply uniformly across the state.

The new legislation has been welcomed by health advocates including the Heart Foundation, the NSW Cancer Council and the Australian Medical Association.

The Heart Foundation's Cardiovascular Health Director, Julie Anne Mitchell, says it has taken five long years of lobbying government and industry to achieve the changes.

Full Article

Sweeping new smoking laws come into effect today

ABC News | 7th January 2013

New smoking laws came into effect today. The Greens are questioning why it's still legal to smoke in alfresco dining areas.

View Video

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