Our annual conference in partnership with University of South Wales and Barod and sponsored by Welsh Government, The University of South Wales, Orion Medical Supplies, Ethypharm and the British Association for Psychopharmacology
On the 25th June, Kaleidoscope, Barod and the University of Wales, hosted the ‘Is the Dragon Still Smoking? Street Drugs Wales 2019’ conference in Cardiff, of which was the third of its kind in the U.K. in relation the Street Drugs series. The conference brought together local, national and international experts in the field substance use and drug-related policy. Over 140 delegates attended the unique Welsh event which provided the opportunity to listen and learn about current drug-related issues in Wales, up-to-date national research and future policies and practices that might help to create a healthier Wales for people who use drugs.
The topics at hand on the day included the international experience of the use of the dark web, whereby people have used the latest technology such as social media as a method to obtain their choice of drugs for future use, presented by Silje Bakken, a PhD student in Sociology at the University of Copenhagen. Professor Katy Holloway and Dr. Tom May discussed current research being undertaken by the Substance Use Research Group (SURG) within the University of South Wales, that has looked at the growing trend and subsequent issues around the misuse and diversion of prescription only medication, among people who use illegal drugs. Just one of the many topics at hand discussed was the intriguing way on how people were obtaining their prescribed medication, such as falsifying their symptoms to be subsequently prescribed certain drugs or buying off others who were diverting, thus selling, their medication. The last slot before the mid-morning break offered an insight into one of the latest enhanced harm reduction methods, drug testing at festivals. Josh Torrance and Henry Simmons provided a detailed overview of The Loop in terms of their aim of providing such a service at music events as well as the procedure incorporated in relation to testing drugs, as well as the organisations future plans.
In keeping with the festival theme, Barod’s Jamie Harris gave all in attendance a thorough understanding of the work of Chill Welfare, which provides a welfare-based service at multiple festivals throughout the UK. Jamie highlighted the wide variety of issues Chill encounter while providing such a service, such as festivalgoers presenting with significant mental health issues, to working alongside The Loop in sharing information regarding toxic batches of drugs that may be in circulation at the event. Prior to lunch, Nuno Capaz, who has been instrumental within the Portuguese Ministry of Health’s Dissuasion Commission since 2001, provided all an overview of Portugal’s decriminalisation laws regarding the possession of illegal drugs. However, Nuno stated that what structure is in place in Portugal, is not a one-size-fits-all model and that the UK does not have the current frameworks in place to allow an adoption of their European counterparts’ legislation.
The post lunch session was kicked off by Professor Alex Stevens, a current member of the Advisory Council of the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). Prof. Stevens discussed the current drug policy in the U.K and how there is much more room for improvement. In line with Professor Stevens 2016 ACMD report, ‘Reducing Opioid-Related Deaths’, it was discussed that to enable the statistics of fatal consequences of drug overdose in the UK to curb and reduce, extended provision of opioid-substitution-treatment (OST) should be provided as well as Wales should be getting serious about looking into the possibility and providing Heroin Assisted Treatment, for those where OST has not previously worked. This superb presentation was excellently followed up by Christine Schierano, a PhD candidate at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University. Christine discussed her latest research in relation to drug dealing and use within a London chemsex scene. Christine explored the reasons why people would become involved in such situations including responses of wanting to be accepted and a way of paying for their own drugs, as well as a timeline relating to the dealing of substances within the chemsex scene.
The last presentation of the day was passionately delivered by Neil Woods, a former undercover police officer and now chair of the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP UK). Neil explained how the use of his former role, trying to and successfully infiltrate drug gangs and cartels had limited success and that for harms of drugs and drug dealing to be reduced in the U.K., goes beyond the current actions to implement the Misuse of Drugs Act. Neil explained that for the U.K. to effectively deal with drug-related organised crime, there needs to be a significant shift from top-to-bottom starting with reform in country’s current drug policy and legislation. A passionate talk about his experience as an undercover police officer, of which has now shaped his thoughts related to the current war on drugs, was a superb way to end an engrossing conference.