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Australia should stop beefing up its steroid laws – that won’t help users

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The use of image and performance enhancing drugs – in particular steroids – is a growing area of concern globally. The use of these drugs has traditionally been limited to elite athletes and professional bodybuilders. But now their use is becoming normalised as part of a fitness and beauty regime for people who want to gain muscle, become leaner, and improve their appearance.

A universal approach to preventing substance use and mental health problems among adolescents

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More than 6000 students from 71 schools recruited in 2014 as 13 and 14 year olds are participating in a unique ongoing study investigating the effectiveness of Internet-Based Prevention for Anxiety, Depression and Substance Use in Young People. The Climate Schools Combined (CSC) Study represents the latest in a collaborative program of work led by Professor Maree Teesson and Dr Nicola Newton aimed at preventing substance use and mental health problems among Australian youth.

Yes, people can die from opiate withdrawal

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It is generally thought that opiate withdrawal is unpleasant but not life-threatening, but death can, and does, occur. The complications of withdrawal are often underestimated and monitored inadequately.

The opioid withdrawal syndrome is often characterised as a flu-like illness, subjectively severe but objectively mild. Signs and symptoms include dysphoria, insomnia, pupillary dilation, piloerection, yawning, muscle aches, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, nausea, fever, sweating, vomiting and diarrhoea.

Prisons need better drug treatment programs to control infectious diseases

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Worldwide, around 30 million people enter and leave prison each year. Of these people, around 4.5 million have hepatitis C, almost 1 million have HIV and 1.5 million have hepatitis B infections.

In many countries, prisons are underfunded and overcrowded, and injecting drug use is common. Those who enter prison uninfected are at risk of becoming infected, as few countries provide the range of prevention programs required to halt transmission inside.

Powerful opioid fentanyl poses serious risk of fatal overdose

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The death of Prince and the NSW Coroner’s comments on 13 deaths among injecting drug users in a month, suspected to be related to heroin has sparked media interest in fentanyl. NDARC’s Director Michael Farrell spoke to several media outlets about the drug.

“Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more concentrated than morphine,” says Professor Farrell. “It’s very difficult for people to know just how much they are extracting from the patch and injecting. It is already a very powerful opioid and people are injecting it without being able to control how much.

Researcher engagement with people who use drugs

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The voices of drug users are essential to research and the drug policy debate, argue Professor Alison Ritter and colleagues, and it became most evident at the recent Parliamentary Drug Summit which brought together a range of clinicians, researchers and policy advocates as well as people representing those who use drugs. “When these voices spoke, we were reminded that people who use drugs are not statistics or a ‘problem to be addressed’, but rather that “we are your family members, your friends, your colleagues – not some collateral damage”.”

High mortality among heroin users – what we can do to reduce the years of life lost?

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Professor Shane Darke examined death in the Australian Treatment Outcome Study of heroin users and found that mortality rates were very high at 1% per annum, and each death was associated with an average of 44 years of potential life lost. Accidental overdose and suicide accounted for three quarters of years of life lost. Given the prominent role of overdose and suicide, Professor Darke argues that the majority of these fatalities appear preventable.