News from the substance misuse field


News in brief

A round-up of national news from the substance misuse field

Special measures

The Portman Group is instructing off-licences, supermarkets, convenience stores and other retailers not to place orders for 500ml cans of 9 per cent Carlsberg Special Brew, Skol Super and Kestrel Super after its Independent Complaints Panel (ICP) found that the packaging encouraged ‘immoderate consumption’. Each 500ml can contains 4.5 units of alcohol, more than the recommended daily guidelines for both women and men. ‘It is important that a can’s packaging does not encourage immoderate consumption and we advise producers to seek advice from the Portman Group if they are in any doubt,’ said ICP secretary Henry Ashworth. The rulings follow a complaint by homelessness charity Thames Reach.


Opium up

Opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Laos has increased for the eighth consecutive year, with harvest levels three times greater than a decade ago, according to UNODC. Myanmar is the world’s second largest opium producer after Afghanistan, with the trade threatening stability and regional integration, according to Southeast Asia opium survey 2014 – Lao PDR, Myanmar. Cultivation in Afghanistan also rose by 7 per cent last year meaning lower prices were now likely (DDN, December 2014, page 4).

Report at



The first mobile drug-testing device has been granted type approval and is available for purchase by UK police forces. The Securetec DrugWipe 3S – known as ‘Drugwipe’ – can detect the presence of cocaine or cannabis within eight minutes by analysing saliva, after which those testing positive can be taken to the police station for a blood test. ‘Drug drivers are a deadly menace and must be stopped,’ said policing minister Mike Penning. ‘Those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of innocent pedestrians, motorists and their passengers.’


Falling figures

The number of young people being treated in specialist substance misuse services fell for the fourth year running, according to figures from Public Health England (PHE). Just over 19,000 young people were treated in 2012-13, down from more than 24,000 in 2008-09. In more than 70 per cent of cases cannabis was the primary substance, and in 20 per cent of cases alcohol. The number presenting with heroin as their primary substance was the lowest ever, at 160 people. ‘With the right support from local authorities, the NHS and other partners, specialist substance misuse services can continue to focus on what they do best: ensuring that young people who need help get it quickly and that they receive appropriate, personalised support,’ said PHE.


Expensive round 

Cash-strapped councils are having to divert millions of pounds from vital services in order to process licensing applications, carry out consultations and take action on licensing breaches, according to the Local Government Association (LGA). Licensing fees are nationally set and have remained unchanged for a decade, meaning the annual bill to councils now stands at nearly £170m, says the LGA, enough to pay the salaries of 5,000 social workers. ‘It is unacceptable for councils to keep being forced to spend millions each year to subsidise the drinks industry,’ said LGA licensing spokesperson Tony Page. ‘We need the government to finally honour its commitment to introduce locally-set fees to allow local authorities to recover the actual cost of applications and end such a needless waste of taxpayers’ money.’


Parental partnership

A new research project on children living with the impact of parental substance misuse in Scotland has been launched by the Partnership Drugs Initiative (PDI). ‘We want to work with charities from all over Scotland to listen, in particular, to the views and experiences of children and young people living with or who have lived with the impact of their parents’ substance misuse,’ said PDI programme manager Elaine Wilson. ‘In particular, we want to find out what children need when that misuse stops.’ More information at


Severe statistics

Local authority areas reporting the highest rates of people facing ‘severe and multiple disadvantage’ are mainly found in the north, seaside towns and certain London boroughs, according to a new report from the LankellyChase Foundation and Heriot Watt University. The document draws together existing research on homelessness, substance misuse, offending, mental health and poverty and ‘reveals the true extent of overlap between the homeless, offender and drug misusing populations’, said LankellyChase CEO Julian Corner. ‘It makes a nonsense of the separate strategies pursued by government departments and agencies, who continue to think and act as if they weren’t dealing with the same people.’

Hard edges: mapping severe and multiple disadvantage in England at


Victorious voices

‘Letter to my son’ was the winning entry in Adfam’s Family Voices 2014 competition, with runner-up prizes going to ‘Strength’ and ‘Your son or mine…’. The winning entries are available to download at, along with a

Why invest? pack produced by the charity to set out the case for investing in family support services for commissioners and others.


Cannabis catch-up

Transform has produced a new briefing on cannabis social clubs in Spain – private, non-profit organisations where cannabis is grown and distributed to registered members. ‘With no profit motive to increase cannabis consumption or initiate new users, the clubs offer a more cautious, public health-centred alternative to large-scale retail cannabis markets dominated by commercial enterprises,’ says the organisation.

Cannabis social clubs in Spain: legalisation without commercialisation available to download at