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Assessing Prenatal Alcohol Exposure in a Study of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is a diagnostic term used to describe physical, neurodevelopmental, and cognitive impairments that have occurred following exposure to alcohol during pregnancyThe diagnosis of FASD requires a complex assessment and confirmation of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Obtaining accurate and reliable assessment results can be difficult.

Researchers from the University of Western Australia have conducted a study to assess the challenges practitioners face when trying to gain information about prenatal alcohol exposure as part of a broader FASD assessment.

Interviews were carried out with the birth mother or responsible adult for 88 young people sentenced to detention in Western Australia.

Results found that:

  • The birth mother provided information on prenatal alcohol exposure for 55 (63%) of the 88 young people. The other remaining accounts of prenatal alcohol exposure were mostly from relatives.
  • Of the 88 young people with information on prenatal alcohol exposure, 41 (47%) had no reported prenatal alcohol exposure, 19 (22%) had either unknown or moderatequantity prenatal alcohol exposure, and 28 (32%) reported prenatal alcohol exposure at highrisk levels
  • 54% consumed a drink containing alcohol during pregnancy.
  • The most common reported number of standard drinks containing alcohol consumed on a typical day during pregnancy was 7 to 9 drinks (26%)
  • Only 29 of the 47 sources that confirmed prenatal alcohol exposure provided enough information to complete the questionnaire.

Obtaining a reliable measure of prenatal alcohol exposure using maternal recall and selfreport is likely to be limited due to suspected underreporting and lack of clarity as to what constitutes a standard drink. It is likely this is influenced by social stigma and recall bias. The authors suggest standardized recording on all antenatal birth records would aid later assessment for FASD and provide opportunities for advice and support for women who continue to drink.

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

Tuesday | March 26, 2019 | 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm ET

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Prevalence and Pattern of Psychoactive Substance Use among Female Students in North India

The frequent collection, analysis and publication of data on psychoactive substance use among young people is essential to follow trends which can be used to inform practice and public health policy.

In India, psychoactive substance use is a growing problem among males and female. However, there may be gender differences in the effect of substance use, risk to developing addiction and reason for consumption.

A recent cross-sectional survey has analysed psychoactive substance use among 250 female students in North India.

Results from the study found that:

  • Lifetime prevalence of psychoactive substance use was 13.6%
  • 47% of the participants claimed they started using psychoactive substances out of curiosity or for fun
  • Nearly 74% of the study participants belonged to uppermiddle-class socio-economic families.
  • 12% described trying to stop but failing.
  • Alcohol is the primary psychoactive substance used by female students.

These results highlight the need for further research into risk and protective factors associated with psychoactive substance initiation and continued use. The findings can also be used to guide prevention intervention.

Adiktologie Journal

Adiktologie is an international journal devoted to publishing peer-reviewed interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary scientific reports on psychoactive substance use, behavioural addictions and related issues. 

Articles within the latest edition include:


  • There is no safe level of alcohol consumption – the Lancet 2018 late summer update
  • Supporting Research in non-English speaking countries 


  • Preventable mortality caused by the use of alcohol in Slovakia from the regional and socio-economic perspective 
  • University Education of Social Workers in Addictological Issues 
  • eHealth Intervention for Smoking Cessation for Czech Tobacco Smokers: Pilot Study of User Acceptance in Europe and the USA: a review 
  • Predictors of the Successful Treatment of Addiction to Heroin  
  • The First Inpatient Alcohol Treatment Facility in the Czech Republic: a case study of the Tuchlov institution (1923–1938) and Other Illicit Opioids. Systematic review 


  • HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the Czech Republic and Related Factors: Comparison of Key Populations of People who Inject Drugs
    and Men who Have Sex with Men 


  • Development of Addiction to Intranasal Fentanyl in a Cancer Patient 


  • Two staff members and a student from the Department of Addictology participated actively in the Third Annual Conference of the International Consortium of Universities for Drug Demand Reduction 2018 in San Diego 
Adiktologie Journal

Magnitude of Substance Use in India

Until recently the full extent of the use of substances in India has not been realised or documented.

To shed light on the issue, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerement has recently commissioned the National Survey on the Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India. The Magnitude of Substance Use in India reports the findings.

Information regarding the current use, harmful use and dependence was gathered for alcohol, cannabis, opioids, cocaine, amphetamine type substances (ATS), sedatives, inhilants and hallucinogens.

Key findings:

  • Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used by Indians with 14.6% of the population (aged 10-75) using it.
  • 2.8% of the population report using cannabis in the last year and 2.1% of the countries population reported using opioids.
  • The prevelance of alcohol dependence is estmated to be around 2.7% with an additional 2.5% consuming alcohol in a harmful manner.
  • Around 0.55% of Indians receive support for opioid use problems. 
  • States with high prevalence (more than 10%) of alcohol use disorders are: Tripura, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab,Chhattisgarh, and Arunachal Pradesh

Tasmania Drug Trends 2019: Methamphetamine Use, Markets and Harms

The Illicit Drug Reporting System (IDRS) and Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting System (EDRS) are ongoing illicit drug monitoring systems which have been conducted in all states and territories of Australia since 2000, and form part of Drug Trends.

This bulletin provides an overview of key data sources that relate to methamphetamine use in Tasmania. 

In particular it is important to note that the Illicit Drug Reporting System and Ecstasy and Related Drug Reporting System projects focus on very frequent consumers of substances and are not representative of substance consumers at the population level.

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

The University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL) and the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA) are once again joining forces to hold the sixth European drugs summer school (EDSS) on ‘Illicit drugs in Europe: demand, supply and public policies’.

Statistics on Alcohol - England 2019

NHS Digital has released the latest statistical report on alcohol in England. The publication includes a range of information on alcohol use and misuse by adults and children.

The report presents findings on:

  • Alcohol relate hospital admissions
  • Alcohol-specific deaths
  • Alcohol-related prescriptions
  • Drinking behaviour among adults
  • Drinking behaviour among children
  • Road casualties involving illegal alcohol levels
  • Expenditure and affordability

Epidemiology of Substance Use among Forced Migrants: A Global Systematic Review



Forced migration is occurring at unprecedented levels. Forced migrants may be at risk for substance use for reasons including coping with traumatic experiences, co-morbid mental health disorders, acculturation challenges and social and economic inequality. This paper aimed to systematically review the literature examining substance use among forced migrants, and identify priority areas for intervention and future research.


Seven medical, allied health and social science databases were searched from inception to September 2015 in accordance with PRISMA guidelines to identify original peer-reviewed articles describing any findings relating to alcohol and/or illicit drug use among refugees, internally displaced people (IDPs), asylum seekers, people displaced by disasters and deportees. A descriptive synthesis of evidence from quantitative studies was conducted, focusing primarily on studies which used validated measures of substance use. Synthesis of evidence from qualitative studies focused on identifying prominent themes relating to the contexts and consequences of substance use. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) checklists were used to assess methodological quality of included studies.


Forty-four quantitative (82% cross-sectional), 16 qualitative and three mixed-methods studies were included. Ten studies were rated as high methodological quality (16%), 39 as moderate quality (62%) and 14 as low quality (22%). The majority of research was conducted among refugees, IDPs and asylum seekers (n = 55, 87%), predominantly in high-income settings. The highest-quality prevalence estimates of hazardous/harmful alcohol use ranged from 17%-36% in camp settings and 4%-7% in community settings. Few studies collected validated measures of illicit drug use. Seven studies compared substance use among forced migrants to other migrant or native-born samples. Among eight studies which conducted multivariable analysis, male sex, trauma exposure and symptoms of mental illness were commonly identified correlates of substance use.


Our understanding of substance use among forced migrants remains limited, particularly regarding persons displaced due to disasters, development and deportation. Despite a growing body of work among refugee-background populations, few studies include refugees in low and middle-income countries, where over 80% of the global refugee population resides. Findings suggest a need to integrate substance use prevention and treatment into services offered to forced migrants, particularly in camp settings. Efforts to develop and evaluate interventions to reduce substance use and related harms are needed.

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

In a recent publication, Elena Arroyo and a group of Spanish researchers present their conclusions on 'Did psychotropic drug consumption increase during the 2008 financial crisis?'.

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

In the January 2019 edition of ToxTidbits, the Maryland Poison Center reports identification of xylazine in drug overdose deaths. Xylazine is a sedative, muscle relaxant, and analgesic for veterinary use and not approved for human use in the USA.

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez


This publication is a user-friendly guide, taking the reader, step by step, through the trendspotter methodology developed by the EMCDDA to explore emerging drug trends, new patterns of use, developing drug markets and technologies.

Jose Luis Vazquez Martinez

Este informe presenta un planteamiento general de alto nivel sobre el fenómeno de las drogas ilegales en España. Aborda la reducción de la oferta de drogas, el uso de las mismas y los problemas de salud pública asociados, así como las políticas de drogas y las respuestas.

Brian Morales

UNODC Scientific Consultation – December 2015



Aaron White

Senior Scientific Advisor to the Director