Compulsory treatment for opioid addiction is counterproductive. A study conducted in Malaysia from 2012 to 2014 showed that people forcefully treated from opioid addiction are more likely to relapse than those on voluntarily methadone therapy. The research was conducted on two separate groups. The first group was composed of people in compulsory drug detention centres who were not provided with substitution therapy, while the second group was comprised of people treated in voluntary drug treatment centres. People from the first group did not receive substitution therapy, were required to attend compulsory counselling sessions and do manual labour. People from the second group received methadone therapy and were able to choose whether they want to use the services which were compulsory for the first group. The results were striking and showed that people treated voluntarily are 80% less likely to relapse, i.e. start using drugs again than people on compulsory treatment. In addition, the median time between being released from the centre and the relapse was 352 days for the voluntary centres, and only 31 days for people from compulsory treatment centres. According to Frederick Altice, a professor at Yale University, USA, and one of the study’s authors, this clearly proves the inefficiency of compulsory treatment centres, particularly for treatment of opioid addiction. Despite the fact that in 2012 the UN called all member-countries to close the compulsory treatment centres in East and Southeast Asia, the number of people forced to treatment for opioid addiction has doubled from 300,000 to 600,000, while former detainees from compulsory treatment centres testify of the harsh and violent treatment not related in any way with addiction treatment. This report will certainly be of interest to human rights advocates and advocates fighting for human drug policies. (Source: TalkingDrugs)

Chemsex study calls for urgent need for education to decrease the number of GHB related deaths. A study published by Forensic Science International, conducted by the Imperial College London, is warning on the urgent need for education of people who have sexual intercourse under the effect of psychoactive substances. Public health experts point that the most common used drugs during the so-called chemsex are GHB, mephedrone and crystal methamphetamine. They stress, however, that GHB (gama-hydoxybutyrate acid) is the most common cause of overdose, respiratory depression, coma, even death. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, death caused by GHB in Britain use increased for 119%, the most common reason being lack of awareness on the effects and harm of GHB use. Combining GHB with alcohol additionally increases the risk of potential harm, still the number of people continuing such practice is huge. According to the study, 26% alcohol and 72% other drugs were discovered in GHB-related deaths from 2011 to 2015, which only confirms the fact that people lack knowledge on the effects of the drugs they use. Consequently, the study recommends three basic approaches for harm reduction of GHB use, particularly among people who practice chemsex: 1. Providing clear guidelines to the public on harm reduction of GHB use; 2. Collecting accurate information on the trends of GHB use and deaths; and 3. Access to appropriate drug treatment including mental health treatment. (Source: TalkingDrugs)

A protest march against HIB budget reductions. Instead of a proper celebration of the World AIDS Day on December 1st, 2016, the HIV Platform, founded by a number of organizations, organized a march protesting against the reduction of the state budget for the protection of the population of Macedonia from HIV. The Government of Macedonia decided not to resume the responsibility for the 2017 Program for Protection of the Population from HIV but rather reduce the budget for 59%, thus undermining the successful HIV protection in the past and increasing the risk of accelerated HIV spread. The drastic budget decrease will lead to closing the support programs for the most vulnerable HIV groups/communities, including harm reduction programs. In other words, we are expecting increasing spread of HIV. According to the estimations, 15,000 people from the most vulnerable groups/communities, and their families, will remain without the basic life-saving services for protection and early HIV detection, threatening the health and life of the entire Macedonian population. The analysis conducted by the Macedonian Ministry of Health and the World Bank for the forthcoming period until 2030, reveals that by maintaining and correctly allocating the finances, 860 new infections and further 290 HIV-related deaths would be prevented. In the past 20 years, the activities for HIV protection were financed by the Global Fund, while Macedonia undertook the obligation to continue financing these activities after 2016, however in October 2016, the Government cut the budget from the necessary 65 million MKD to 27 million MKD. Consequently, the HIV Platform demanded that the Government of Macedonia urgently correct the budget for the Program for Protection of the Population from HIV and provide opportunities for long-term financing of all protection and support activities. (Resource: HOPS)

The II World Ayahuasca Conference. In October 2016, in Rio Branco, Brazil, the II World Ayahuasca Conference - AYA2016 took place, with more than 750 participants who had the opportunity to discuss the ayahuasca and globalization influence. The conference is a historic opportunity for development of professional dialogue for the ayahuasca as a cultural heritage and the need to protect the plant as a cultural benefit for the indigenous cultures. The conference is considered to be a space where different cultures come together and from where the voices of the religious institutions and traditional communities can spread across the world. The I World Ayahuasca Conference was held in 2014, organized by the International Centre for Ethnobotanical Education, Research and Services. Ayahuasca is a tea prepared from a mixture of plants, used by the indigenous Amazon population as a medicine and in shamanic rituals, mostly because of its properties to induce altered states of consciousness. Shamans or medicine men take ayahuasca to connect with nature or reveal the spiritual causes of illness in their patients. Western society’s interest in ayahuasca is related to addiction treatment, depression and other psychological problems, as well as the dimethyltryptamine present in the drink. Dimethyltryptamine is a neurotransmitter related to the pineal gland in humans, and people who believe that the pineal gland is connected with the so-called “third eye” find explanation for the visionary experiences caused by the ayahuasca.       

International plead to stop the executions of people who use drugs in the Philippines. On September 21st, the International Day of Peace, organizations and activists from many countries joined together as In Defence of Human Rights and Dignity Movement issued a call to the Philippine Government to stop persecution and execution of people who use drugs. Drug use in the Philippines is punished with death sentence, intensively enforced by President Rodrigo Duterte. Since his appointment more than 3,000 people who use drugs have been executed. The fact that all executions are done extra-judicially, by the police or vigilante groups, is a clear indicator of persecution. While his administration is struggling to justify his actions, Duterte makes no attempts to hide his affinity towards extra-judicial execution and his intolerance towards drugs. On the contrary, he supports vigilante groups in killing people who use drugs. Duterte has publically stated that he does not believe in rehabilitation, the principal policy of all previous governments. According to the written plead of the In Defence of Human Rights and Dignity Movement, development and peace go together, and this is why the United Nations are expected to take lead in the drastic reduction of all forms of violence, promotion of the rule of law and equal access to justice for all as a precondition for the achievement of sustainable development. (Source: IDPC

Local Strategy for HIV Protection adopted by the Municipality of Gostivar for 2016 to 2020. During the 32nd session held on September 20th, 2016, the Council of the Municipality of Gostivar unanimously adopted the “Local Strategy for HIV Protection of the Municipality of Gostivar for 2016 to 2020.” An Action Plan for Strategy Implementation for 2016 to 2020 was also adopted. The Local Strategy was developed within the project “HIV and Drug Use Prevention among Citizens from the Borderline Region”, financed from EU’s Program for Cross-Border Cooperation Kosovo-Macedonia. The Strategy took 6 months to be developed, and was managed by HOPS - Healthy Options Project Skopje, with the support of the local partner organization HELP Gostivar. The process began with strategic planning training, held in September 2015, where a working group for Strategy development was formed. The working group was comprised of representatives from: the Municipality of Gostivar, the Public Health Centre, the Department for Infectious Diseases within the General Hospital Gostivar, the Inter-municipal Centre for Social Work, the Gostivar Police Station, as well as local civil society organizations working with marginalized communities. After the training, from September 2015 to February 2016, several coordinative meetings for the development of the Strategy were held. The draft-documents, i.e. the Local Strategy and Action Plan, were discussed during a public debate attended by town councillors and municipality representatives. Two other local strategies for HIV protection for the Municipality of Kumanovo and the Municipality of Tetovo are to be developed within the same project. (Source: HOPS)

Heroin Addiction Treatment. In September 2016, the Canadian Government quietly approved new regulations for heroin treatment for severe opioid addicts. The new regulations allow doctors to prescribe pharmaceutical-grade heroin with controlled quality for treatment. Of course, the treatment in Canada is available only for opioid addicts who have had little success in the past with conventional treatments such as detoxification and methadone substitution therapy. This allows Crosstown, a Vancouver-based innovative clinic to expand its special heroin-maintenance program. Medical heroin is administered by a nurse as many as three times a day to a patient. This is a so-called “high threshold” program. Patients must come to the clinic two or three times a day for injections, which is demanding for those working or taking care of their families. Still, it affects the dropout level in schools, which is going down. Patients are healthier, and their participation in criminal activities drastically reduces, which on the other hand leads to smaller costs for the criminal justice system. Due to its singularity, the treatment will be applied only in cases where traditional possibilities prove inefficient. Similar programs have been developed in USA and 8 other European countries. Despite the controversies, the Trudeau government stands firmly behind its decisions and continues with the bold drug policy reforms in Canada. (Source: HOPS)

Rise of HIV in Southeast Europe. In the countries around the Black Sea, new 100,000 cases are registered every year. The hotspots are Russia and Ukraine, with rises registered in Bulgaria, Armenia, Belarus and Turkey. According to the WHO, many people aren’t even aware of the virus inside them. The real number of new HIV infected cases in the region is estimated to be around 300,000 a year. Russia is the central HIV point in the region, where the number of new HIV infections rose from 58,000 in 2010 to 78,000 in 2013. The total number of people living with HIV in November 2014 in Russia was 864,394, but according to the WHO methodology, the real figure might be 2.4 million. The most common reason for HIV infection is non-sterile needle injection, however, despite the established efficiency of opioid substitution treatment and needle exchange programs, politicians refuse to introduce such measures under the excuse that it encourages drug use. As far as we know, the only method for combating HIV among people who inject drugs in Russia is ideological – complete drugs abstinence for all those seeking social and health care. Russia is a good example of how harmful ideological approaches might be in solving social and health issues concerning the population. Experiences from more pragmatic countries show that harm reduction programs, opioid substitution therapy programs and antiretroviral therapy programs provide efficient HIV protection for the population. (Source: HOPS)