Drop-in centres in Slovenia have been closed by the decision of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Affairs since the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic.
In Ljubljana, the Association for Harm Reduction Stigma continues to distribute sterile injecting equipment. The mobile outreach service (a van) continues to operate in the central part of Slovenia.
Injecting drug users have access to sterile injecting equipment but security measures are introduced: clients and staff have to keep 1.5 m distance from each other. All other information and counselling are available via telephone or online.
Drug testing, performed by Association Drogart, is open, but in smaller scale as before and with more safety measures.
OST is working, users get their take home medicine for a week, some even for two or three weeks. OST delivery was organised in a very good way since the first indications that the epidemic can hit Europe appeared.
One of the problems is closure of public transportation, which means that some persons cannot reach the OST clinics. For some of them, Association for harm reduction Stigma can deliver their methadone.
The greatest challenge is to support homeless people because they have nowhere to go (all daily care programs are closed, as well as public toilettes, due to safety reasons). There are negotiations with local authorities and ministries on how to deal with this situation.
Night shelters and safe houses for women are still open. However, it is very problematic because staff and clients have no safety masks. The use of disinfectants is mandatory.
There is still no official translation of the 1961 Convention, but the Ministry of Health is commissioning a study on other countries
In April, The National Assembly Health Committee called on the ministry to prepare the grounds for cannabis cultivation by the end of this year.
Where is the sticking point?
The Ministry of Health has announced a low-value study for analyzing the costs and benefits of regulating cannabis cultivation for medical purposes in Slovenia, while SD representative Bojana Muršič is asking Minister Minister Aleš Šabeder for the purpose, as all the explanations have been gathered in 2016. Members of Parliament have been misled for years.
The analysis should include an overview of cannabis cultivation regimes for medical purposes in the EU countries, identifying the varieties of cannabis that are most in demand on the market, as well as the presentation and dissemination of the results, which will take a year. It won’t be cheap; providers must prove they have completed at least two comparable health surveys worth at least € 25,000 in five years.
“All these years, the officials of the ministry you lead ensure that the risks and costs outweigh the benefits that are minimal. In a public debate that has intensified in recent years, on a number of occasions from a number of different sources the ministry has been presented credible information, publicly and clearly, which they want to collect now through the public procurement and (re)use of public funds“, Muršič warns the minister and adds that in April, the National Assembly Health Committee called on the ministry to prepare the grounds for cannabis
cultivation by the end of this year.
The Convention does not classify hemp plants as illicit drugs; that is a Slovenian particularity that was added by an unofficial translation from ten years ago.
Confusion due to wrong translation
Even in the order, the ministry points out that the regulation on hemp use in our country is based on three UN conventions, first a single drug convention of 1961 and related protocols of 1972. “The basis for the classification of the cannabis plant as well as the resin in the illicit drug list is thus the Single Convention as well as the 1988 Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The Single Convention allows the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes under certain conditions”, the ministry writes.
But here’s the catch. The Convention does not classify hemp plants as llicit drugs; that is a Slovenian particularity that was added with an unofficial translation from ten years ago. Exactly three years ago, this translation of the convention was removed from the websites of all bodies, including the Ministry of Justice. Thus, Slovenia does not have an official translation of the convention, thus violating said convention. Even worse, this unofficial translation is still used by the courts and police in criminal proceedings.
According to the Rules of Procedure, the Drugs Commission should operate in the Slovenian language, which is not easy when the Single convention is available in Serbian and French, since Slovenia succeeded it from Yugoslavia.
Who is responsible?
Responsibility for the professional preparation and coherence of the material, which appears everywhere from the government commission to the World Health Organization (WHO) regional organization, is in the Health promotion and control of chronic non-communicable diseases and conditions department of the Ministry of Health.
The Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions in Slovenia holds its third conference on 19 November 2019 in Ljubljana under the headline “Unconditional shelter for all: Needs and housing for people with psychoactive substance disorder“.
Participation at the Conference is free. Deadline for applications is 31 October 2019. The application form is available following this link>>>
Research Nature Institute organizes 5th seminar in the Demystifying Cannabis cycle, Cannabis Now International Conference on October the 4th and 5th in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The seminar has been organised since 2014 in Ljubljana, Belgrade, Skopje and Zagreb.
During the seminar, the Slovenian and international top-level experts on cannabis will introduce us to the most recent insights into the medical use of cannabis in different countries around the world (Israel, Canada, USA, the Czech Republic, Spain). After their lecture, they will respond to your questions in a debate. The attenders and speakers at the Conference are experts in field of medicine, psychiatry, pharmacy, chemistry and biology: Dr. Jonathan Grunfeld, Dr. Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, Prof. Dr. David Neubauer, Dr. Sue Sisley, Doc. dr. Tanja Bagar, Dr. Dorothy H. Bray, Dr. Guillermo Velasco Díez, Dr. Paul Hornby, Prof. Dr. Tamara Lah Turnšek, Mag. Dušan Nolimal, Dr. Ilya Reznik, Dr. Roman Štukelj.
Research Nature Institute is institute for research, development and quality assurance of nature remedies, with the goal to research the efficacy and safety of natural remedies that are currently available or are of limited access to persons in need. By setting standards for quality control and standardization, providing accreditation programs, and taking part in clinical trials, their aim is to ensure natural remedies are clean (free of contaminants) and effective at known dosages to the user. Their basic work is to educate the public, medical professionals and legislators of our findings based on sound scientific methodologies and principles.
To read more details about this event follow this link>>>
On the occasion of the International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), DPNSEE issued a press release underlining the importance of awareness and fighting stigma on overdose and presenting data about the issue worldwide and especially in Serbia. The release was published by the national Press agency Tanjug and several other media and portals.
In Montenegro, NGO Juventas also issued a press release (supported by the NGO 4 Life) and held a press conference where Marija Mijović, coordinator of Programme of direct assistance to the people in risk of social exclusion presented situation in the country. A movie “Overdose”, directed by Mladen Vujović, outreach worker at the Drop-in Centre of NGO Juventas, Montenegro in cooperation with the Hungarian Drug reporters, was screened at the Green Montenegro International Film Festval.
Our colleagues from the Romanian Harm Reduction Network created a special video for this year’s IOAD campaign. Have a look at “Voices of the drug users. Episode 1”
Association AREAL and AREALTRIBE group from Slovenia organized a workshop dedicated to the International overdose awareness day on 1 September 2019 in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Participants were educated how to respond if an individual finds himself or herself in that position.
Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose and the fact is, overdose is an increasing global problem. Spreading the message that the tragedy of overdose and injury is preventable, International Overdose Awareness Day raise awareness of overdose and reduces the stigma associated with the drug-related death. Also, the day of awareness is providing support to families and loved ones of overdose victims, so that no one is forgotten.
Slovenian National Institute of Biology and University Medical Centre Ljubljana, with MGC Pharma Research and Development Division, conducted the study about the treatment of high-grade brain tumours, i.e. glioblastoma with cannabinoids. The general aim of the research was to develop formulations to define the protocols for the treatment.
Study evaluated cannabinoid receptor proteins that may add to identify the most effective cytotoxic cannabinoids, known so far, e.g. CBD and THC ratios and further their possible synergistic effects with chemotherapeutic Temozolomide (‘TMZ’) with regards to the treatment of glioblastoma patients.
Conclusions of the study
Cannabinoids, especially at increasing THC concentrations, reduce the viability of glioblastoma cells.
Targeting glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) that are more resistant to chemotherapy. GSC has so far proved to be more vulnerable to cannabinoids than were differentiated cell (publication in preparation).
At optimal concentration for each patient, the defined cannabinoids composition represents promising tool to reduce tumour burden.
Research collaboration is part of MGC Pharma’s strategy of partnering with leading research institutions to examine opportunities to develop new pharma products based on proven cannabinoid formulations in pre-and clinical studies.
The study results can be viewed on the Company’s website and will be presented by the National Institute of Biology at the 2nd International Annual Congress on Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicines in Barcelona, Spain on 23-24 May 2019.
The Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) published reports on the experiences and aspirations of youth in Southeast Europe. The FES carried out a representative region-wide survey on a sample of more than 10.000 young people aged 14 – 29 from ten countries in Southeast Europe in early 2018.
“FES Youth Studies Southeast Europe 2018/2019” is an international youth research project carried out simultaneously in ten countries in Southeast Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Slovenia. The main objective of the surveys has been to identify, describe and analyse attitudes of young people and patterns of behaviour in contemporary society.
A broad range of issues were addressed, including young peoples’ experiences and aspirations in different realms of life, such as education, employment, political participation, family relationships, leisure and use of information and communications technology, but also their values, attitudes and beliefs.
Findings are presented in ten national and one regional study and its accompanying policy papers, which have been published in both English and the respective national languages.
The most important results are grouped under headlines:
A wish to belong to Europe
Migration and mobility do not have to be zero-sum
Fighting corruption as a crime, not as a concept
Employment discourse shifting towards the quality of work
The second day of the 62th CND was full of side events and sharing with participants.
An overviews of the side events we participated in today includes:
Psychoactive substances and the Sustainable Development Goals – Towards a comprehensive approach in the era of the 2030 Agenda
Organized by the Government of Slovenia, Utrip Institute for Research and Development, the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe and IOGT International. Jože Hren started his presentation reminding that for 20 years already the approach in Slovenia is that drug use is primarily a health problem and that possession of small quantities is a misdemeanour also since 1999. Those who are caught in possession of drugs get a fine of 40 Euro, but there is a process to change it to an oral warning or referral to treatment in more complex situations. Representative of the Pompidou Group spoke about the bi-annual prize the Group awards to innovative prevention programmes created by young people for young people. Another Slovenian representative presented their work emphasizing the need to invest in mental health programmes for adolescents. Cost of mental health disorders in Europe take 3 to 5 percent of GDP. There is a need for a reallocation of resources for more sustainable and impactful outcomes in tackling harmful substances and behaviours. Medical help is not enough – it has to be combined with comprehensive and long lasting prevention. They have a programme called “This is me”, which is in line with the Goal 3 of the SDGs. Kristina Sperkova, president of the IOGT International (international network of Templar organisations) works on prevention of alcohol and other drugs harm world-wide. Sanela from Utrip Institute advocated for a community approach to prevention. Notes from the side event are available at the CND Blog following this address>>>.
Leaving no one behind: People at the centre of a harm reduction, human rights and public health approach to drug use
Organized by the Netherlands and Norway, UNODC, UNDP, UNAIDS, WHO, IDPC, AFEW International, Harm Reduction International, INPUD, Open Society Foundations, Aidsfonds and Frontline AIDS. Ann Fordham from IDPC highlighted that the new UNADIS report indicates that 99% of people who use drugs doesn’t have a proper access to health services. WHO representative reminded that half a million people worldwide die of drug related deaths, mainly overdose and blood borne diseases HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. People also suffer because they can’t access the medicines they need. The Netherlands has “put people first” in their approach to harm reduction. The right to health is fundamental to all people irrespective of whether they are using drugs. Drug policies should seek to reduce violence, promote the rule of law, support the most marginalized and vulnerable, lift up human rights. Prohibition and criminalization means a continuation of armed conflict supported by disproportionate spending. Naomi Burke-Shyne from HRI reminded that funding for harm reduction has flat lined from 2007 to 2016, which stands in shocking contrast to the estimated funding need by UNAIDS: existing funding represents only 13% of this estimated need. Judy Chang from INPUD stated that “Existing drug policies threaten security, democracy and the well-being of all, especially those most marginalized and vulnerable. The war on drugs and drug-free agenda undermines the SDG agenda.” Zaved Mahmood from UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that People who use drugs are not just left behind, they are kept out. The right to life includes the obligation to take measures where peoples’ lives might be threatened, including in relation to the use of drugs and HIV and hepatitis.
Drug prevention approaches that make a difference
Organized by the Governments of Iceland and Serbia, and the Pompidou Group of the Council of Europe. Serbian representative to the OSC made an introduction speech. The same like the Minister of Health on Thursday 14 at the Ministerial Segment, he said that the Drug Strategy has 5 chapters instead of 7, avoiding to say that Harm Reduction is one of them. Jelena Janković from the Ministry of Health presented the latest developments, including information about overdose deaths in 2018 and creation of the Ministerial Commission (for fighting narcomania in schools). She also presented the project the Ministry did with experiences and support from Israel. Iceland presented their project with are seen as the flagship project on prevention. Almost 2% of the alcohol and tobacco taxes go to prevention programmes! They see as the main risks and protective factors family factors, peer group effect, general well-being and extra-curricular activities and sports. Their learning is that the multidisciplinary collaboration is the key to success. The change thy achieved is different attitude of parents and society – don’t buy alcohol for children. It is not OK for adolescents to be drunk in public. It is not the amount of time that parents spend with their children – it is the quality of time. There are no unsupervised parties. Pompidou Group emphasised the role of police in prevention. Interventions from the floor were on offering more than just sports and having campaigns that cover illicit but also legal substances.
Other side events held today that may be of interest are:
The Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC) held regular Annual General Assembly. The Committee welcomed new members, reviewed and approved the VNGOC annual report and reflected on activities for 2018/19 including those of the Civil Society Task Force (CSTF), got information about the annual accounts for 2018, the latest financial status and audited accounts for 2018, Strategic Plan 2019-21 and Budget for 2019 and Voluntary Code of Conduct for NGOs at the CND and received an update on developments within UNODC. The Committee discussed the future organisation of the VNGOC, based on the background paper presented by the Board.
Following a governance review process undertaken in 2017, VNGOC agreed to stagger the elections for the VNGOC Board to ensure greater stability and continuity. In order to do this, three of the positions elected last year were given one-year terms, the other three positions were given the standard two-year terms. This year, the following three positions were up for re-election: Chairperson, Deputy Treasurer, Deputy Secretary. Our friend fro International Drug Policy Consortium Jamie Bridge was re-elected for the Chairperson. Congratulations!
Our colleagues from the Alliance of Non Governmental Organisations for Drugs and Addictions from Slovenia forwarded us more information from the Early Warning System on new psychoactive substances (NPS).
Four different ecstasy pills with a very high MDMA content were detected in Maribor, namely blue Punisher (284 mg MDMA), pink Red Bull (213 mg), brown Pharoh (197 mg) and green Shell (171 mg) pills. Punisher’s blue ecstasy was also detected in Ljubljana and appeared in Slovenj Gradec.
Also, pink ecstasy pills and three other strong ecstasy pills with a very high content of MDMA have recently been detected in Ljubljana.
Literature indicates that the “acceptable” dose of MDMA is 1 – 1.5 mg/kg of body weight. That means that for a person who weighs 60 kg the dose is 60 – 90 mg. In quantities greater than 120 mg, the possibility of complications due to MDMA ingestion is increased (nausea, vomiting, cramping, restlessness and paranoia, severe motor disorders, headache, panic attack, high blood pressure, increased sweating, loss of consciousness, overheating of the body, etc.). 200 or more mg for many people means at least twice the dose in which the adverse effects are greatly increased.
At doses higher than 400 mg, the possibility of death overdose is greatly increased.
Besides MDMA pills, a fake LSD pill was also offered in Maribor. It actually contains synthetic pseudelic 25B-NBOMe, for which little information is available. Users describe that 25B-NBOMe has a hallucinogenic effect already in very small quantities and is very difficult to use safely. They also present a number of side effects, such as: tongue and mouth, nausea, increased heart rate, high blood pressure, agitation, confusion, seizures, fever. A lot of cases of poisoning and fatalities are associated with substances from the group 25-NBOMe. Therefore, extra prudence and compliance with the recommendations for harm reduction are recommended.
Due to the likelihood that these pills will occur in other places around Slovenia and in neighbouring countries, users are advised to use them caution and contact anonymous testing service wherever available.
The samples were collected at the info points of the DrogArt Association in Maribor and Ljubljana within the service of anonymous testing of psychoactive substances. The samples was analysed at the National Laboratory for Health, Environment and Food.
Drogart advices 6 ways to decrease the possibility of complications when using pills:
Always check which pill you have.
Try to find as much information as possible about the content of the pill and effects (for example, people who know this pill read current user reports and alerts on the Internet). But be careful – the same look does not necessarily mean the same content.
Test the tablet before testing.
Start with a quarter or at least a half and wait two hours to see what the effects are.
If you decide to redisplay, be careful. This puts more and more burdens on the body, as well as negative effects.
Do not mix with other drugs (including alcohol), as this increases the likelihood of complications and overdoses.
Drink enough liquid (but not more than 0.5 l per hour), soak enough rest and fresh air.
The CannaPaed Symposium 2019 will be held in Ljubljana on 25th of January 2019. The Symposium is intended for anyone taking care of children with pharmacoresistant epilepsy as well as children with other medical conditions such as dystonia, autism or cancer that could benefit from treatment with medicines derived from cannabis.
The invited speakers will present you the basics of endocannabinoid system, the mode of action and the importance of different strains for different disease conditions in pediatrics. The symposium is designed for those taking care of children, from those in training to those with years of experience.