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Pike, Brigid (2010) In brief. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 35, Autumn 2010 , p. 29.

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On 6 April 2010 Social Justice Ireland published its Socio-Economic Review for 2010 entitled ‘An agenda for a new Ireland’. The authors argue that Ireland’s policy-making for more than a decade was guided by false assumptions concerning economic growth, taxation, services and infrastructure, and that many policy failures arose from these false assumptions. They contend that Ireland needs a new vision to guide policy development and decision-making, and set out four core values that should underpin a guiding vision for Ireland – human dignity, sustainability, equality/human rights, and ‘the common good’. www.socialjustice.ie 

On 7 May 2010 the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs published a report Study of young carers in the Irish population. The researchers defined a young carer as ‘a child or young person under 18 years whose life is affected in a significant way by the need to provide care for a family or household member who has an illness, disability, addiction or other care requirement’. The research team failed to recruit and interview children and young people of parents with drug or alcohol addictions, and concluded that, as a result, it was ‘likely that the final sample does not include the most vulnerable categories of young carers’.
 
In its editorial on 22 May 2010 The Lancet (Vol. 375, Issue 9728) applauded US President Barack Obama’s five-year National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS), which was released on 11 May 2010: ‘Obama's new plan is a welcome departure from the ideologically driven measures of previous administrations and from other countries such as the UK, which have failed on several occasions to use evidence as the basis of drugs policy.’ The NDCS aims to reduce the rate of youth drug use and the number of chronic drug users by 15% not only through law enforcement initiatives but also by strengthening efforts to prevent drug use in communities, improving early intervention opportunities in health care, integrating treatment for substance use disorders into health care, expanding support for recovery, and improving information systems. In 2010 the NDCS is focusing on three specific areas: preventing drug use, driving under the influence of drugs, and prescription drug abuse. The Lancet comments: ‘these are well-chosen priorities since those who reach 21 years without developing an addiction are less likely to do so afterwards, driving under the influence of illegal drugs is now more common than drunk driving in the USA, and the abuse of prescription drugs is the country's most rapidly growing drug problem’. www.thelancet.com and www.ondcp.gov/policy/ndcs.html
 
For 26 June 2010, International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) chose the theme ‘Think health, not drugs’. The intention is to raise awareness about the major challenge that illicit drugs represent to society as a whole, and especially to the young. The goal of the campaign is to mobilise support and to inspire people to act against drug abuse. The campaign encourages young people to put their health first and not to take drugs. www.unodc.org 
 
On 6 July 2010 medicinal cannabis was the subject of a response to a written question in Dáil Éireann. Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, stated: ‘The current legal position in Ireland in relation to cannabis and cannabis based medicinal products such as Sativex is that they are Schedule 1 controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. All Schedule 1 substances are substances which are considered as having no medicinal use and the manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession of cannabis and cannabis derivatives is unlawful except for the purposes of research. My Department is aware that claims have been made in respect of Sativex and its possible benefits for patients suffering from certain conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and cancer. As the law currently stands it would not be possible for Sativex to be licensed here for medicinal use or for a General Practitioner to prescribe it. As cannabis is the drug which is most abused in Ireland, I am reluctant to loosen the controls on its use. However, I am seeking expert clinical advice in this matter and I am open to making a change to the Misuse of Drugs legislation to allow for the use of medicinal cannabis based drugs such as Sativex, if the expert advice indicates that a change is warranted.’ www.oireachtas.ie
 
Between 18 and 23 July 2010 the XVIII International Aids Conference (AIDS 2010) was held in Vienna. The conference issued an official declaration, the Vienna Declaration, which seeks to improve community health and safety by calling for the incorporation of scientific evidence into illicit drug policies. Drafted by a team of international experts, the Declaration states: ‘The criminalisation of illicit drug users is fuelling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed … Reorienting drug policies towards evidence-based approaches that respect, protect and fulfil human rights has the potential to reduce harms deriving from current policies and would allow for the redirection of the vast financial resources towards where they are needed most: implementing and evaluating evidence-based prevention, regulatory, treatment and harm reduction interventions.’ Scientists, health practitioners, organisations and the public around the world are being invited to endorse this document in order to bring these issues to the attention of governments and international agencies, and to illustrate that drug policy reform is a matter of urgent international significance. www.viennadeclaration.com
 
On 26 July 2010 the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) published The impact of drugs on different minority groups: a review of the UK literature. This review found that drug services were of ‘little relevance’ to many in Britain’s diverse communities, including LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) groups, disabled people and BME (black and minority ethnic) communities. The authors argue that a better understanding of drug use within diverse minority communities is needed to reduce drug problems. Appropriate data-gathering and intelligence-sharing mechanisms could also be used to flag health risks associated with the use of new drugs within these groups before their use becomes widespread.

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