Drug related deaths increase dramatically in Scotland
In the past year, Scotland’s drug related deaths have increased dramatically by 27%.
This almost levels the fatality rate per capita with the US. The latest figures showed the majority of fatalities was from the over 35 age group, known as the “Trainspotting generation.”
Westminster currently hold the power on the Misuse of Drugs Act, which Scotland believes should be relaxed as a method of controlling the issue in the country. One of Scotland’s most senior police officers has described the Misuse of Drugs Act as a relic that was “ripe for reform.”
The chair of the Scottish government’s task force on drug deaths, Catriona Matheson believes that treatment challenges should be investigated alongside decriminalisation;
“I understand why decriminalisation grabs most attention, but legislation, criminal justice, healthcare and public attitudes are intertwined”.
There is also a significant increase in the number of fatalities amongst the under 35 age group. These deaths are heavily linked to poly-drug use, including the relatively newly available drug named “street benzodiazepines.”
The lead pharmacist for addiction services at the city’s health and social care partnership, Dr Carole Hunter, said;
“The major problem for Glasgow is heroin and illicit benzos like etizolam or street Valium, which have never been cheaper or more available.”
International trials have shown that medicinal heroin can be an effective treatment for a number of opioid users who do not respond to regular methods of treatment. Hunter proposes opening an enhanced drug treatment centre in Glasgow for this medicinal heroin to be administered under supervision.
Dave Liddell, chief executive of Scottish Drugs Forum stated;
“Neither decriminalisation nor one drug consumption room in Glasgow is going to impact substantially on the death rate. The key focus needs to be on improving our drug treatment and care services. We need to look at access to opioid replacement therapy. Only 40% of people with a drug problem in Scotland are currently in treatment, compared with far higher numbers in England and many countries in England.”
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In early May 2019, over 550 state employees in Egypt were referred to the Egyptian public prosecution office after being forced to take a drug test under a new law.
The Ministry of Social Solidarity announced on May 5th that 15,877 state employees had recently been drug tested, and that 555 had been referred to the Administrative Prosecution Authority (APA) for testing positive for illegal drugs.
The sudden crackdown on drug users follows the government in Egypt approving a bill in March that authorised the required drug testing of all state employees from ministerial to the local level. Alongside members of the civil service, employees working for public transportation, hospitals, and other state-run institutions must also be drug tested. Anyone who refuses to be drug tested will have their employment terminated.
The new law was brought in with explicit support from Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli, following a deadly train crash in Cairo after which the train driver tested positive for drug use.
Egyptian law does not specify the punishment for someone who tests positive for drug use, but the director of Egypt’s Fund for Drug Control and Treatment – Amr Osman – has warned that any state bus or rail drivers testing positive for drug use face imprisonment for at least two years, and a fine of 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($582).
University students and employees will also be subject to mandatory drug testing, the education minister has announced. In this case, people who test positive will be offered “treatment” and will be sacked or expelled from the university if they refuse to comply.
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There has been an established link between disorder at football games and increasing cocaine use in society, according to Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts, the UK’s lead on football policing. Over the past two seasons, disorder at football matches has increased (45%), and has been linked to the increase prevalence of cocaine use inside stadiums.
According to the Home Office, 2.6% of 16 – 59 year olds took cocaine in 2017-18, up 2.4% in 2013-14. The drug in the UK is becoming cheaper, purer and more accessible than before. A senior football official said, when speaking with The Independent, that it is the “massive elephant in the room”, with police sources claiming that it is “rife” at football grounds across the country.
Football policing units carry out drug checks inside football stadiums with drug detection dogs and swabbing areas such as toilets. Arrests are made at the football grounds for drug possession. In 2017, cocaine related arrests at football grounds more than doubled from 32 to 68. These numbers may seem small, however DCC Mark Roberts says a reduction in match day policing, due to budget constraints, is the reason for these low numbers. 50% of games are either police-free (11.3%) or spotter only (39.3%).
Inspector Andy Bridgewater, the head of West Midlands’ Police football unit, believes there is a real cocaine problem stating that “there is a really strong correlation today between cocaine use and football-related violence.”
Overall disorder incidents at matches jumped 36% in 2016-17 and again last year, while cocaine-related deaths in England and Wales increased in 2017 for the sixth year in a row, from 112 in 2011 to 432 in 2017.
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Amidst growing concerns of an opioid-abuse epidemic in the United States, it has been established that kratom (Mitragynine) is increasing in popularity amongst opioid users and has been reported as the new ‘legal high’.
Kratom is an unendorsed herb substance which has not yet been criminalized in the United States and is considered a powerful analgesic with opioid-like effects at high doses and acts as a stimulant at lower doses. Often used as a treatment for chronic pain or opiate withdrawal patients, it also comes in the form of a dietary supplement. As there are no Federal regulations monitoring the sale and distribution of Kratom the substance continues to be readily available and easily accessible via the internet, increasing its abuse by chronic pain patients on prescription opioids.
Kratom has been associated with psychosis, seizures, and has recently cited 100 deaths over a 17-month period by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In previous reports, the Food and Drug Administration had warned against the use of Kratom to ease opioid withdrawal, as many pain physicians are not familiar about its addictive properties. Further the DEA plans to classify kratom as a Schedule 1 substance.
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Scotland is set to introduce a new “zero tolerance” policy to those caught driving under the influence of drugs. Ministers in Scotland want to make it easier for police officers to target people driving with illegal drugs in their bloodstream. The policy will supersede the current need to prove that someone was driving in an impaired manner as a result of drug consumption. The law in Scotland currently states that it is illegal to drive if impaired by drugs, be it prescription or illegal drugs.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said “The introduction of drug driving limits will strengthen the power of Scotland’s police and prosecutors to tackle the minority of drivers who irresponsibly put themselves and other road-users at risk. Drug driving is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to prevent the avoidable deaths and damage caused by those who drive under the influence of drugs. Together with our stringent drink-driving limits, these new laws will ensure that Scotland have the UK’s most robust laws against impaired and unsafe driving.”
Under the new plan, eight of the most commonly abuse illegal drugs – including heroin, ketamine and ecstasy – will have limits set very close to zero to rule out claims of accidental exposure. A further eight drugs, which can have medicinal purposes – such as diazepam and methadone – will have higher limits based on their ability to impair drivers. These proposals would mean just having drugs in your system that breach the limits, this is sufficient evidence to prosecute.
In the turn of the new year, we look at the current trends in drug abuse in 3 key continents and what their key 2018 figures say about drug use in their countries.
New psychoactive substances have been an emerging drug market in the Americas, with a total of 130 different new psychoactive substances being reported in seven South American countries in August 2017. This was more than a 50% increase within the year, as over 60 different substances had been reported in 2016 alone, according to the OAS and CICAD Report on Drug Use in The Americas 2019. Latin America have experienced a surge in LSD, synthetic cannabinoid, plant substance and ketamine use among the general population as well.
Meanwhile, opioids and prescription opioids have been a major cause for concern in the Americas, with opioid analgesics involved in more overdose fatalities than any type of illicit drug, exceeding cocaine and heroin-related fatalities in Canada and USA combined. Users are increasingly turning to street opioids as well, which are often mixed with heroin and other drugs. The major challenge noted in the same report is the complexity of the appearance of NPS and the counterfeit substances it contains.
Cannabis has had the highest use among males, with most cases being regular patterns of use. Around 1% of European adults are considered daily users according to the European Drug Report 2018. Regarding opioids, heroin is the most common drug of abuse in this category, and prevalence of high risk opioid use among adults is estimated to be at 0.4% of the EU population.
Synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are growing in use in Europe. In 2016, over 18 European countries reported more than 10% of all opioid clients entering specialised services suffering from opioid addiction other than heroin.
Opioids present the largest drug problem in Asia, having the highest proportion of causes of drug users going to treatment centres, followed by amphetamine-type stimulants and cannabis. Production of drug substances in Asia have been significant in the last 3 years, with cocaine and opium production hitting record highs. Methamphetamine is also an emerging threat to Asia, with production of the synthetic drug overtaking heroin.
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Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, or ELISA, has been utilised as a screening tool for some time. The immunoassay technique is a popular choice for the evaluation of various research and diagnostic targets including drugs of abuse testing.
As primary manufacturer of the Biochip Array Technology, Randox Toxicology also provide highly sensitive ELISA kits that are compatible with all microplate processing instruments. Our test menu covers a broad range of drugs of abuse and metabolites including new psychoactive substances, stimulants, analgesics and sedatives. With low specificity, our ELISA kits are available across whole blood, urine and oral fluid matrices. Randox Toxicology develop the highest quality 96-well microtitre plates available on the market, with results providing excellent correlation with confirmatory methods.
Our range of ELISAs are precoated with our own antibodies which are cultivated in the UK. The ready to use reagent format facilitates optimum laboratory efficiency and allows up to 80 samples to be analysed in 2 to 3 hours with ELISA procedures.
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The 2018 UN World Drug Report calculated that around 275 million people worldwide used drugs at least once in 2016 and some 31 million of those suffer from a drug use disorder.
Cannabis was the most commonly used drug in 2016, with 192 million people using it at least once that year. The global number of cannabis users continues to rise and appears to have increased by roughly 16 per cent in the decade ending 2016, which is in line with the increase of the world population.
The quantities of cannabis seized worldwide fell by 27 per cent, to 4,386 tons in 2016. This decline was particularly noticed in North America, where the medical cannabis in many states and the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use may have played a role in the declining figures. There is evidence from Western countries that the perceived easy availability of cannabis, coupled with perceptions of a low risk of harm, makes the drug among the most common substances whose use is initiated in adolescence. Cannabis is often used in conjunction with other substances and the use of other drugs is typically tried after recreational cannabis use.
As the need for vital drug screening continues to increase, Randox Toxicology are leading the way in developing new and novel drugs of abuse tests. Capable of detecting up to 21 classical, prescription and synthetic drugs from a single sample including cannabinoids, our fully automated Evidence MultiSTAT analyser utilises our Biochip Array Technology to deliver reliable and accurate results in under 20 minutes.
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Southeast Asia’s economy is booming, increasing every year by 5% and is expected to continue to grow due to an expanding consumer market, a young workforce and increasing regional cooperation. However, these are not the only markets experiencing the boom. The region’s illicit markets are also enjoying a surge.
Drug labs in Southeast Asia are releasing two to six billion methamphetamine tablets a year into the black market, which NPR reports is more tablets than cups of coffee sold by Starbucks. A lot of these tablets go into China and Thailand, with more finding their way to Bangladesh each year. As a result, seizures of meth tablets have gone up in the last 10 years in Bangladesh by 80,000 percent.
China not only receives large quantities of drugs to be sold on the streets, it also produces them. As China is soon set to become the world’s largest economy it now has plenty of people who can afford the products. So the drug lords and dealers are moving towards this market. This means that drug cartels don’t have to go further afield to sell their drugs.
China’s “One Belt One Road” plan has also enabled the easier trafficking of drugs. The plan is to connect the world with highways, ports, airports, and train lines to allow commerce to move to and from China easily. This connected infrastructure has made it easier for smugglers to move their products from A to B.
Randox Toxicology’s DoA ULTRA panel detects 20 targeted drugs including methamphetamine and amphetamine. Utilising our patented Biochip Array Technology, DoA ULTRA offers the most comprehensive drugs of abuse screen across multiple forensic matrices and provides the largest cross-reactivity profile of over 240 analytes from a single sample.
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