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31st December 2017

New decline in US life expectancy due to opioids

Many drug-related deaths, particularly those resulting from opioid overdoses, have contributed to a reduction in life expectancy among Americans for the second year in a row in 2016, in an unprecedented decline since the early 1960s.

 In 2016, life expectancy at birth in the United States was 78.6 years, compared with 78.7 years in 2015, a decline of nearly one month, and 78.9 years in 2014, according to statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"It  was the first time that the overall life expectancy in the United States has declined two years in a row since the early 1960s" said Robert Anderson, director of statistics at the CDC center. He noted that “The key factor in all this is the increase in drug overdose deaths.” For a long time the high number of deaths from overdoses was offset by the decline in deaths from heart disease-vascular, but this decline has slowed."

By the end of October, US President Donald Trump described the opioid addiction as a "health emergency" and promised to eliminate this "scourge", while stressing that it "will take several years."

An estimated 2 million Americans are addicted to opioids. This type of drug includes antidepressants, such as Fentanyl and Oxycontein, as well as heroin  which is often mixed with other substances.

The decline in life expectancy in 2015 was also associated with the opioids crisis, the first recorded since 2013.

In 2016, the United States recorded 63,600 deaths from overdose, or 174 per day, according to the latest statistics. This represents 19.8 per 100,000 people, an increase of 20 per cent compared to 2015 (16.3 per 100,000 inhabitants). This rate has increased threefold since 1999 (6.1 per 100,000 inhabitants).

Among adults aged between 25 and 54 years old, this rate is 35 per 100,000. "The sad figures published today by the CDC Centers confirm that we are losing a generation of Americans because of addiction, which is a preventable disease," said the addiction policy group.

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28th December 2017

World Health Organization: Smoking kills more than 7 million a year

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed today in a report that tobacco companies are marketing new products claiming they are less harmful, such as devices that "heat tobacco instead of burning it", evaporate tobacco to produce nicotine-based aerosols, and fund organizations that claim to work for a tobacco-free world.

The report mentioned that the world has experienced similar tactics in other countries, from Uruguay to Australia, where tobacco companies are launching costly legal challenges to legitimate regulation of their deadly products. Despite the losses, these companies will undoubtedly continue to look for new ways to counter the restrictions imposed on tobacco.

Moreover, the report added that the order of the publication of "corrective statements" in US media issued by the federal court represents certainly a victory of the truth. The messages stem from a lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 1999 under the federal law to fight organized crime, and then was left without a verdict, until October 2017, during a decade of appeal and litigation after the 2006 decision.

The data explain in detail the lethal effects of direct and indirect smoking on health, including the following  facts : low-tar and "light" cigarettes are not less harmful than regular cigarettes; smoking and nicotine lead to addiction, and cigarettes were "deliberately" faked in order to "inhale more nicotine."

The report said that cigarette producers also recognize that their products lead to 1,200 deaths in the United States on a daily basis and that obacco use kills more than 7 million a year worldwide.

The report added that we must not lose our determination: there are governments and health organizations like in our two countries that are at war with the tobacco industry and we will continue to fight to defeat the big tobacco companies.

If country leaders and ministers of health and finance are wondering what steps need to be taken to control tobacco products, the confessions of big tobacco companies and the doubts of investors provide the following answer: Maximum action is needed. Governments face a moral and legal necessities to use the strongest possible measures to protect their citizens from tobacco.

In addition, the WHO Convention provides instructions for tobacco control on topics such as tobacco taxation, public awareness, education and collective warnings. These measures have helped save millions of lives over the last decade, not to mention saving hundreds of billions of dollars in health costs.

However, more can be done and we call on governments around the world to implement the WHO Convention on Tobacco Control by speeding up tobacco control policy procedures, implementing measures to combat tobacco control, and applying the Convention at the country level. These conventions and measures together constitute the strongest defense against the tobacco industry.

In addition, governments must support the Protocol to Combat Illicit Trafficking in Tobacco Products, which aims to prevent illicit trafficking, such as smuggling. Although the European Union and 33 other countries have signed the protocol, it needs the support of 7 other governments before it becomes in force.

Finally, in light of the 2018 high-level United Nations meeting on noncommunicable diseases, leaders must be ready to demonstrate their commitment to protect people against heart and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes, by supporting higher standards for tobacco.

After the recent confessions, the major tobacco companies were forced to reveal their true nature. Reluctantly, these companies have all asked us to abandon their products. We believe it is time to accept this proposal because we all know how dangerous tobacco is to human health: it kills millions of people each year and causes a lot of health hazards. We also know that tobacco companies have long handled the damage their products cause to health.

But now, even big tobacco companies have been forced to make the facts public, and after losing several calls after a US federal court ruling in 2006, four companies have been forced to reveal the truth behind years of deceptive marketing by the publication of advertisements containing "corrective statements" in US newspapers and on television. These statements must acknowledge that the US companies "Philip Morris", "Reynolds Tobacco", "Laurelard" and "Altria" were aware of the damage caused by their products, and continued nevertheless to sell them.

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27th December 2017

Anti-smoking medications contain soft drugs

According to a study by experts from the American Association, anti-smoking drugs have serious health effects, contribute to the development of vascular diseases and cause heart muscle disorders, because they often contain soft drugs or nicotine; hence, any overdose of these medications can cause serious health problems or even death sometimes.

Above study stated that 34% of those who quit using these medications are often exposed to severe muscle pain and are referred to the emergency department, showing usually signs of subsequent heart attacks.

Several people are using medications to stop smoking. Some have started using electronic cigarettes in recent years thinking they will help them change this bad habit, but a recent American study has shown that those who smoke electronic cigarettes, even occasionally, can become tobacco smokers within two years.

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26th December 2017

UNODC launches publication to help Member States counter opioid crisis

Recent years have seen a sharp global rise in opioid overdose deaths. While such deaths were initially localised in North America, they now occur in some European countries, attributable to street heroin adulterated with clandestinely produced fentanyl and its analogues.

To assist Member States in addressing this challenge, UNODC's Laboratory and Forensic Services Programme recently published a manual for forensic laboratories, entitled " Recommended Methods for the Identification and Analysis of Fentanyl and its Analogues in Biological Specimens".

Speaking about the publication, Angela Me, UNODC's Head of Research and Trend Analysis Branch, said: "Enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies and national laboratories in identifying and reporting on these substances is critical to understanding the nature and extent of the current opioid crisis. It is a key step in obtaining evidence-based information for effective international response."

In the United States, opioid overdose deaths in 2015 were over 33,000, exceeding all other drug-related deaths or traffic fatalities. Between January and June 2017, Canada reported that 65 per cent of all analysed heroin samples contained fentanyl or one of its analogues. Similarly, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug addiction reported over 60 deaths associated with the use of carfentanil (a veterinary pharmaceutical with a potency 10000 times that of morphine) in the continent.

Fentanyl is a narcotic analgesic used in cancer pain relief and surgical anaesthesia, and it is on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines. There are four fentanyl analogues used as pharmaceuticals and a total of 15 are under international control.

Identification of fentanyl analogues in cases of poisonings and fatalities as well as in overdose deaths remains a major challenge. Fentanyl analogues can be present in adulterated drug samples in small amounts, making their detection and identification difficult. Such circumstances obstruct obtaining accurate information on the scope and extent of the problem at the global level.

Since 2012, more than 20 non-controlled fentanyl derivatives have been reported to UNODC's early warning advisory on new psychoactive substances. The potencies of these fentanyl analogues can range from 10 to several thousand times when compared with morphine.

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25th December 2017

An international drug expert warns against anabolic steroids

Many experts warned against the use of steroids to increase muscle mass in order to attract the attention and admiration of others. Everyone should be aware that steroids in general have a direct harmful effect on health, whether taken orally or through injections as they cause serious long-term illnesses, such as infertility and cancer, as well as the lack of blood sugar and the reduction in thyroid functions.

A study at the University of Kuwait found that taking synthetic steroid hormones is considered a gateway to cancer, infertility and liver cirrhosis.

The study showed that about 30% of young people attending health clubs take hormones and steroids despite their negative effects on the body, as they cause liver cells damage and they weaken sperms, induce enlargement of the prostate and cause swelling of the breast area. The study prepared by the professor of food and nutrition at the College of Life Sciences at the University of Kuwait, Dr. Rashid Ahmed Lafi to determine the prevalence of hormone intake among youth in clubs also showed that about 77% of users are under 29 years old, and the majority have a high school level education or even less.

The study also showed that hormone users spend monthly on the consumption of these products what is equivalent to 200 Kuwaiti Dinars, and that about 42% of young people buy steroids directly from coaches in sports clubs and not from specialty shops or pharmacies.

On the other hand, the natural hormonal causes that lead to infertility are those related to a disorder in the pituitary gland functions at the core of the brain or other glands affecting the function of the testes, such as the thyroid and adrenal glands and the pancreas. Hence, anabolic steroid consumers, will inevitably suffer from abnormal dysfunctions that lead to chronic diseases in the functions of these glands. Their effects do not stop at infertility but lead to cancerous cells inflation and weakening in the body strength over time. Furthermore, among the damage related to the abuse of these substances, we find that muscles weight increases, increasing thus body weight, which causes heart diseases and leads to the cirrhosis of some muscles due to the overload on the heart muscles. This is not to mention that steroids contribute to the alteration of body shape, low libido, as well as insomnia and mental and nervous stress.

Dear youth, life is not in body shapes that change with drugs and stimulants, but rather in work, health and the building of a healthy body.

Dr. Ayed Ali Al-Humaidan

International expert in the field of drugs and psychotropic substances

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24th December 2017

Addiction treatment consultant: 6.2 million Egyptians consume drugs

Ehab El-Kharrat, a consultant in psychiatry and drug treatment, said that 6.2% of Egyptians are addicted to narcotics  substances according to the narcotic addiction standards.

Al-Kharrat explained, during his talk on "Salat Al-tahrir" program aired Tuesday night on “Sada Al-Balad” satellite that the latest research in this area was recently published. He noted that this research studied a sample of 100,000 Egyptian citizens from all governorates, and found that 6.2% of them consume narcotic substances.

On the other hand, Al-Kharrat pointed out that in 2011, 3 million Egyptians were using drugs, noting that America, ranked among the countries most addicted to alcohol, records a percentage of drug use ranging from 5 to 8%, and Egypt averages this percentage.

It should be noted that the Fight against Drugs and Organized Crime, and in coordination with the General Directorate for securing the axis of the Suez Canal, succeeded in thwarting a smuggling attempt of 3 million and 750 000 narcotic pills in a container inside a commercial vessel.

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