Mapping the Brain, Unlocking the Mind, Tackling Addiction
By Dr. Mary Baker MBE (UK), PARTICIPANT, is Immediate Past President of the European Brain Council, Immediate Past President of the European Federation of Neurological Associations; Consultant to the World Health Organisation (WHO); Member of EFPIA Advisory Board and Chair of the Working Group on Parkinson’s Disease; and a member of the European Commission’s CONNECT Advisory Forum. Academic appointments include Associate Membership of the Health Services Research Unit, University of Oxford and Visiting Fellow within the Health Centre at London School of Economics (LSE).
By M.D. Kevin Bridgman (UK) PARTICIPANT, is a qualified clinician with extensive pharmaceutical industry experience in both prescription and consumer healthcare. He is currently Chief Medical Officer and Director of Compliance at Nicovations Ltd, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, developing and commercialising innovative inhaled nicotine products that meet medicines standards, for smokers wishing to reduce, replace or stop smoking.
The ‘Brain Age’ is upon us. The race is on as we enter a new chapter in human history. Massive global investments in brain research and cognitive neuroscience from Beijing to Boston to Brussels are transforming our understanding of the human mind. The European Union’s Human Brain Project20 aims to develop new technology platforms dedicated to Neuroinformatics, Brain Simulation, High Performance Computing, Medical Informatics, Neuromorphic Computing and Neurorobotics. The United States’ Brain Initiative21 aims to understand the human brain and how individual cells and complex neural circuits interact in both time and space. These are just two of many bold new research efforts to revolutionise our understanding of the human mind and uncover new ways to treat, prevent and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, epilepsy, and traumatic brain injury.
Advocates argue convincingly that a greater understanding of the human brain holds great promise for better prevention, diagnosis, treatment, care and rehabilitation of brain disorders. We save and improve lives. Sceptics worry about the social and ethical implications of altering brain function.
Providing Science Advice to Governments: Case-Studies in Teenage Morbidity & Recreational Drugs
By Professor Sir Peter Gluckman (NZ), GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Paediatrician and Endocrinologist; Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister of New Zealand; Chairman, International Network on Science Advice to Governments; Co-Chair of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity; Elected Foreign Member of the Institute of Medicine, US National Academies of Science; Fellow of the UK Academy of Medical Sciences and Fellow of the Royal Society London; University Distinguished Professor, University of Auckland; Visiting Professor, University College London; and holder of Honorary Chairs at the National University of Singapore and University of Southampton. He is also Chief Scientific Officer, Singapore Institute for Clinical Sciences; Dean Emeritus of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and Director Emeritus of the Liggins Institute, University of Auckland.
At the first global meeting on the practice of providing science advice to governments, held in Auckland in August 2014, there was broad recognition that there are multiple modalities of science advice including both deliberative (formal) and informal processes17. Where the evidence is of a complex or contested nature formal processes are essential, but to be effective, any system intended to ensure the input and integrity of scientific evidence into policy also requires informal processes. Not only do these two sets of processes differ from each other, but they are also quite separate from the goal and practices of providing policy for the science system per se. Yet these concepts and modalities are often conflated in the minds of the public, of government and, indeed, of the science community.
The Ethics of Intervening in the Lives of Substance Addicts
By Prof. Julian Kinderlerer (SA), CONSULTATION EVENT CO-CHAIR, President of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) reporting to European Commission President Juncker and the European Parliament; Prof. of Intellectual Law, Cape Town University; Adviser to the South African Science Ministry; Occasional Adviser to the UN Environment Programme; UN Industrial Development Organisation; World Intellectual Property Organisation; Former Director of Institutes on Biotech Law, Ethics & Society at Delft and Sheffield Universities.How do we differentiate between the responsibilities of individuals to look after themselves within an evermore complex social structure, and the responsibilities of States to look after their citizens, provide security and a milieu in which to live a satisfying life? If an individual wishes to take actions that may harm themselves but debatably have no impact on the lives of others, such as smoking, vaping, drinking or taking illicit drugs, should the State interfere? Can a rational analysis based on robust science provide a more effective basis for assuring that individuals are treated with respect and fundamentally that society ensures that individuals are not interfered with when causing no harm to others?
Punishment Strategies Do Not Reduce Demand for Drugs
By Mike Trace, Consultation Event Drugs Panel Chair is Chairman of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC). Previous roles include UK Deputy Drug-Czar to Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chairman of the European Monitoring Centre on Drug & Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
In June 2013, we enjoyed a high level workshop looking at the real science of drug addiction and its implications for policy-making. We heard evidence from some of the world’s foremost experts, also on other substance addictions, that would point to urgent changes required in some of the policies and programmes that have characterised international drug control for the last century:
Social and ethnographic studies have demonstrated that the reasons why young people first decide to take illegal drugs, and why experimentation turns into regular use, are grounded in fashion, peer pressure, attitudes to risk, and socio-economic conditions. The legal status of the preferred substance and the risk of arrest and punishment do not seem to have a significant impact on the number of young people who use drugs. But the dominant strategy used by many governments in an attempt to reduce demand for drugs is to declare them to be prohibited and to arrest and punish those caught in possession in an attempt to deter potential users from becoming involved. Whatever the other pros and cons of a punishment strategy, it cannot be expected to reduce demand at a population level.
Drug Programmes & Policies: What Evidence of Effectiveness?
By Dr. Françoise Dubois-Arber, Consultation Event Drug Panel Presenter; Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (IUMSP), Faculty of Biology & Medicine, Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland.
Debates on programmes and policies related to illicit drugs – at national or international level – are often difficult, emotional, and not driven by scientific evidence. However, over the last decades, there has been a lot of effort to conduct sound evaluation of programmes and policies and to review the available evidence of effectiveness. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) provides on its website a review of the evidence of effectiveness of various programmes related to illicit drug use (www.emcdda.europa.eu/best-practice). The level of evidence regarding prevention, substitution therapy, and harm reduction is briefly summarised here.
UN Review Process Calling for Wide-Ranging Debate on Drug Policies: Will Europe Set the Example?
By Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, MD, Consultation Event Co-Chair & UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia; Member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy and Former Executive Director, The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria.
These are times for debate on drug policies. The call for debate came from the UN Secretary- General “In 2014, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs will conduct a high-level review. This will be followed, in 2016, by the UN General Assembly Special Session on the issue. I urge Member States to use these opportunities to conduct a wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options.”
Opening the debate is timely since the UN General Assembly has not met on the issue of drugs for more than sixteen years. So many changes have occurred in that period of time in terms of geopolitics, world economics and development, societal behavior, drug production patterns, biomedical research, and drug consumption and policies. These have also been the years where the AIDS epidemic has decimated the community of people who inject drugs and where, as a consequence many countries, particularly in Western Europe, shifted pragmatically their drug policies towards a harm reduction and public health focus.