Tag Archives: Most

Seaside towns among most deprived communities in UK

Coastal communities are lagging behind inland areas, with some of the worst levels of economic and social deprivation in the UK, a report shows.

Comparison of earnings, employment, health and education data in local authority areas identified “pockets of significant deprivation” in seaside towns and a widening gap between coastal communities and the rest of the country.

The government has pledged to give £40m to coastal areas in an attempt to boost employment and encourage tourism. However, researchers said some communities were being overlooked by policymakers, who were preoccupied with more affluent centres.

Analysis by the Social Market Foundation (SMF) thinktank found that in 85% of Britain’s 98 coastal local authorities, people earned below the national average for 2016, with employees in seaside communities paid about £3,600 less.

The report commissioned by BBC Breakfast also found:

Torbay, North Devon, Gwynedd, Hastings and Torridge made up five of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain where people earned the lowest average pay.

Hartlepool, North Ayrshire, Torridge, Hastings, South Tyneside and Sunderland made up five of the 10 local authorities in Great Britain with the highest unemployment rate in the first quarter of 2017.

Neath Port Talbot, Blackpool, Bridgend, Sunderland, Barrow-in-Furness, Carmarthenshire, East Lindsey, South Tyneside, County Durham and Hartlepool made up half of the 20 local authorities in England and Wales with the highest proportion of individuals in poor health.

Great Yarmouth and Castle Point were the two local authorities in England and Wales with the smallest proportion of over-16-year-olds who had level four and above qualifications, such as higher apprenticeships and degrees.

Data from the Office for National Statistics showed that in 1997 economic output per person was 23% lower in coastal communities than non-coastal communities, while in 2015 the gap had widened to 26%.

Scott Corfe, SMF’s chief economist and author of the report, said poor infrastructure was contributing to the growing disparity between seaside towns and their inland counterparts.

“Many coastal communities are poorly connected to major employment centres in the UK, which compounds the difficulties faced by residents in these areas. Not only do they lack local job opportunities, but travelling elsewhere for work is also relatively difficult.

“Despite the evident social and economic problems which these places face, there is currently no official definition of a ‘coastal community’. The government needs to do more to track – and address – economic problems in our coastal towns.

“Particularly in the south-east, some coastal communities are pockets of significant deprivation surrounded by affluence – meaning their problems are often overlooked by policymakers.”

Why fentanyl could become the UK’s most dangerous drug

Fentanyl is starting to hit the headlines in the UK. The drug is not so well-known this side of the Atlantic but, if experiences in America are anything to go by, that will change. Sadly, fentanyl is a problem that is unlikely to be going away.

Fentanyl is a powerful pain-relieving drug, 50 times more potent than morphine, and was originally synthesised by Belgian chemist Paul Jannsen. The drug has medical applications, for example, in anaesthesia and relieving pain from major surgery or cancer.

The drug interacts with the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin and is therefore called an opioid, even though it is chemically unrelated to opiates (drugs derived from opium poppies). Opioid receptors are part of the body’s reward pathway. Chemicals are released in our body to make us feel good as a reward for activities that help us survive and procreate, such as eating, drinking and sex. Increasing the presence of feelgood chemicals in our body is why opiates and opioids can be so powerfully addictive.

The body responds to repeated doses of opioids by desensitising the receptors. It means more opioid drugs have to be taken to achieve the same level of pain relief, when taken for medical reasons, or to reach the same high if taken recreationally. This is the development of tolerance. Those who have been taking opioids for a a longer period can cope with quantities that would kill new users or those who have lost their tolerance through a break in taking the drug.

For regular users, reducing the dose or stopping it means the body suddenly has receptors that need huge stimulation to relieve pain but no drug to stimulate them. Withdrawal from opioids can be agony. Every bone in the body hurts, you experience severe cold and goose bumps – hence the phrase “cold turkey”. With fentanyl the high is greater and so is the withdrawal. The desire to take more of the drug can be overwhelming.

Since the 1960s the fentanyl backbone has been modified and tinkered with to produce a huge number of variants that will differ in their interactions in the body. Some variants are more powerful sedatives than others and they differ in how long before they take effect. Carfentanil, for example, is thousands of times more powerful than morphine and is used to tranquilise elephants. It is so powerful that those who work with elephants, park rangers etc., are required to have two people present if they are planning to use carfentanil darts. One person is there to fire the dart, and the other, sitting next to them with the antidote ready, in case of an accidental scratch. Incredibly there have been cases of human consumption of carfentanil, spiked in heroin or cocaine.

Because fentanyl interacts with the same receptors as morphine, the same antidote can be used. Naloxone, also marketed as Narcan, binds to opioid receptors but doesn’t stimulate them, it simply blocks the site where the opioid would bind and reverses all the opioid’s effects. However, fentanyl binds much more strongly to these receptors meaning a much larger dose of the antidote is needed. Emergency staff in the US have been known to administer a dozen or more doses of naloxone in cases of fentanyl overdose with no appreciable effect.

The intense and rapid high produced by fentanyl has made it attractive drug for recreational use. Cutting fentanyl with drugs like heroin and cocaine dramatically intensifies the potency and makes it far more addictive, benefiting drug dealers with very dependent consumers. It also dramatically increases in chances of dying. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal for an adult. Fentanyl has become a large part of America’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl kills for the same reasons that opiates kill – they slow respiration until it stops. Death is by suffocation. Drugs administered by prescription or in hospital environments are quality controlled and used where the effects can be monitored and action taken if something goes wrong. By definition there is no such control in the illegal drugs trade. What is sold on the street could be anything from a little heroin, diluted with something fairly innocuous, to pure fentanyl.

It was recently reported that fentanyl has claimed the lives of at least 60 people in the UK over the last eight months. Sixty is a large number but it pales in comparison to the number of lives claimed by the drug in the US.

The process of making drugs is often frighteningly easy. For example, converting morphine to its far more addictive form heroin is an easy process that can be carried out with minimal knowledge and equipment. It is an attractive prospect for those wanting to make a quick profit. The biggest problem would be obtaining the raw materials, which in the case of morphine/heroin isn’t particularly difficult if you know where to look.

Fentanyl offers much greater profits per kilo than heroin but also presents greater problems. The chemistry needed to make fentanyl and its related compounds is not that difficult, at least on paper. Obtaining the raw materials is not the hardest part. The real problems occur in the practicalities of the chemical process needed to manufacture the drugs. These compounds are so potent that touching equipment contaminated with the drug can prove fatal. But, because it requires relatively specialised knowledge, the number of people producing fentanyl drugs illegally is quite small. However, because what they produce is so potent, a little bit goes a long way, and there is the potential to affect huge numbers of drug users.

On the positive side, if law enforcement can shut down just a few fentanyl factories it can dramatically reduce the number drug-related deaths. But even shutting down these factories is not straightforward. Drug raids have to be carefully planned. Going in all guns blazing can result in fentanyl powder being blown up into the air and officers needing emergency medical treatment. A police officer in the US was hospitalised simply because of brushing fentanyl powder off his uniform after an arrest.

There is no obvious quick fix to this growing problem. Reducing the number of opioid prescriptions may help lower the number of people who become addicted. Knowledge of the appalling effects of fentanyl may at least raise awareness but the chances of it deterring people from taking the drug seems a vain hope. One way of maybe reducing the number of deaths is making the opioid-blocker naloxone more widely available, but this is far from being a solution to the problem. Other ideas put forward have included making safer supplies of drugs available to users, at least temporarily. Leaving things as they are is not an option unless you want to see thousands more die. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but the future looks bleak.

Why fentanyl could become the UK’s most dangerous drug

Fentanyl is starting to hit the headlines in the UK. The drug is not so well-known this side of the Atlantic but, if experiences in America are anything to go by, that will change. Sadly, fentanyl is a problem that is unlikely to be going away.

Fentanyl is a powerful pain-relieving drug, 50 times more potent than morphine, and was originally synthesised by Belgian chemist Paul Jannsen. The drug has medical applications, for example, in anaesthesia and relieving pain from major surgery or cancer.

The drug interacts with the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin and is therefore called an opioid, even though it is chemically unrelated to opiates (drugs derived from opium poppies). Opioid receptors are part of the body’s reward pathway. Chemicals are released in our body to make us feel good as a reward for activities that help us survive and procreate, such as eating, drinking and sex. Increasing the presence of feelgood chemicals in our body is why opiates and opioids can be so powerfully addictive.

The body responds to repeated doses of opioids by desensitising the receptors. It means more opioid drugs have to be taken to achieve the same level of pain relief, when taken for medical reasons, or to reach the same high if taken recreationally. This is the development of tolerance. Those who have been taking opioids for a a longer period can cope with quantities that would kill new users or those who have lost their tolerance through a break in taking the drug.

For regular users, reducing the dose or stopping it means the body suddenly has receptors that need huge stimulation to relieve pain but no drug to stimulate them. Withdrawal from opioids can be agony. Every bone in the body hurts, you experience severe cold and goose bumps – hence the phrase “cold turkey”. With fentanyl the high is greater and so is the withdrawal. The desire to take more of the drug can be overwhelming.

Since the 1960s the fentanyl backbone has been modified and tinkered with to produce a huge number of variants that will differ in their interactions in the body. Some variants are more powerful sedatives than others and they differ in how long before they take effect. Carfentanil, for example, is thousands of times more powerful than morphine and is used to tranquilise elephants. It is so powerful that those who work with elephants, park rangers etc., are required to have two people present if they are planning to use carfentanil darts. One person is there to fire the dart, and the other, sitting next to them with the antidote ready, in case of an accidental scratch. Incredibly there have been cases of human consumption of carfentanil, spiked in heroin or cocaine.

Because fentanyl interacts with the same receptors as morphine, the same antidote can be used. Naloxone, also marketed as Narcan, binds to opioid receptors but doesn’t stimulate them, it simply blocks the site where the opioid would bind and reverses all the opioid’s effects. However, fentanyl binds much more strongly to these receptors meaning a much larger dose of the antidote is needed. Emergency staff in the US have been known to administer a dozen or more doses of naloxone in cases of fentanyl overdose with no appreciable effect.

The intense and rapid high produced by fentanyl has made it attractive drug for recreational use. Cutting fentanyl with drugs like heroin and cocaine dramatically intensifies the potency and makes it far more addictive, benefiting drug dealers with very dependent consumers. It also dramatically increases in chances of dying. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal for an adult. Fentanyl has become a large part of America’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl kills for the same reasons that opiates kill – they slow respiration until it stops. Death is by suffocation. Drugs administered by prescription or in hospital environments are quality controlled and used where the effects can be monitored and action taken if something goes wrong. By definition there is no such control in the illegal drugs trade. What is sold on the street could be anything from a little heroin, diluted with something fairly innocuous, to pure fentanyl.

It was recently reported that fentanyl has claimed the lives of at least 60 people in the UK over the last eight months. Sixty is a large number but it pales in comparison to the number of lives claimed by the drug in the US.

The process of making drugs is often frighteningly easy. For example, converting morphine to its far more addictive form heroin is an easy process that can be carried out with minimal knowledge and equipment. It is an attractive prospect for those wanting to make a quick profit. The biggest problem would be obtaining the raw materials, which in the case of morphine/heroin isn’t particularly difficult if you know where to look.

Fentanyl offers much greater profits per kilo than heroin but also presents greater problems. The chemistry needed to make fentanyl and its related compounds is not that difficult, at least on paper. Obtaining the raw materials is not the hardest part. The real problems occur in the practicalities of the chemical process needed to manufacture the drugs. These compounds are so potent that touching equipment contaminated with the drug can prove fatal. But, because it requires relatively specialised knowledge, the number of people producing fentanyl drugs illegally is quite small. However, because what they produce is so potent, a little bit goes a long way, and there is the potential to affect huge numbers of drug users.

On the positive side, if law enforcement can shut down just a few fentanyl factories it can dramatically reduce the number drug-related deaths. But even shutting down these factories is not straightforward. Drug raids have to be carefully planned. Going in all guns blazing can result in fentanyl powder being blown up into the air and officers needing emergency medical treatment. A police officer in the US was hospitalised simply because of brushing fentanyl powder off his uniform after an arrest.

There is no obvious quick fix to this growing problem. Reducing the number of opioid prescriptions may help lower the number of people who become addicted. Knowledge of the appalling effects of fentanyl may at least raise awareness but the chances of it deterring people from taking the drug seems a vain hope. One way of maybe reducing the number of deaths is making the opioid-blocker naloxone more widely available, but this is far from being a solution to the problem. Other ideas put forward have included making safer supplies of drugs available to users, at least temporarily. Leaving things as they are is not an option unless you want to see thousands more die. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but the future looks bleak.

Why fentanyl could become the UK’s most dangerous drug

Fentanyl is starting to hit the headlines in the UK. The drug is not so well-known this side of the Atlantic but, if experiences in America are anything to go by, that will change. Sadly, fentanyl is a problem that is unlikely to be going away.

Fentanyl is a powerful pain-relieving drug, 50 times more potent than morphine, and was originally synthesised by Belgian chemist Paul Jannsen. The drug has medical applications, for example, in anaesthesia and relieving pain from major surgery or cancer.

The drug interacts with the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin and is therefore called an opioid, even though it is chemically unrelated to opiates (drugs derived from opium poppies). Opioid receptors are part of the body’s reward pathway. Chemicals are released in our body to make us feel good as a reward for activities that help us survive and procreate, such as eating, drinking and sex. Increasing the presence of feelgood chemicals in our body is why opiates and opioids can be so powerfully addictive.

The body responds to repeated doses of opioids by desensitising the receptors. It means more opioid drugs have to be taken to achieve the same level of pain relief, when taken for medical reasons, or to reach the same high if taken recreationally. This is the development of tolerance. Those who have been taking opioids for a a longer period can cope with quantities that would kill new users or those who have lost their tolerance through a break in taking the drug.

For regular users, reducing the dose or stopping it means the body suddenly has receptors that need huge stimulation to relieve pain but no drug to stimulate them. Withdrawal from opioids can be agony. Every bone in the body hurts, you experience severe cold and goose bumps – hence the phrase “cold turkey”. With fentanyl the high is greater and so is the withdrawal. The desire to take more of the drug can be overwhelming.

Since the 1960s the fentanyl backbone has been modified and tinkered with to produce a huge number of variants that will differ in their interactions in the body. Some variants are more powerful sedatives than others and they differ in how long before they take effect. Carfentanil, for example, is thousands of times more powerful than morphine and is used to tranquilise elephants. It is so powerful that those who work with elephants, park rangers etc., are required to have two people present if they are planning to use carfentanil darts. One person is there to fire the dart, and the other, sitting next to them with the antidote ready, in case of an accidental scratch. Incredibly there have been cases of human consumption of carfentanil, spiked in heroin or cocaine.

Because fentanyl interacts with the same receptors as morphine, the same antidote can be used. Naloxone, also marketed as Narcan, binds to opioid receptors but doesn’t stimulate them, it simply blocks the site where the opioid would bind and reverses all the opioid’s effects. However, fentanyl binds much more strongly to these receptors meaning a much larger dose of the antidote is needed. Emergency staff in the US have been known to administer a dozen or more doses of naloxone in cases of fentanyl overdose with no appreciable effect.

The intense and rapid high produced by fentanyl has made it attractive drug for recreational use. Cutting fentanyl with drugs like heroin and cocaine dramatically intensifies the potency and makes it far more addictive, benefiting drug dealers with very dependent consumers. It also dramatically increases in chances of dying. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal for an adult. Fentanyl has become a large part of America’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl kills for the same reasons that opiates kill – they slow respiration until it stops. Death is by suffocation. Drugs administered by prescription or in hospital environments are quality controlled and used where the effects can be monitored and action taken if something goes wrong. By definition there is no such control in the illegal drugs trade. What is sold on the street could be anything from a little heroin, diluted with something fairly innocuous, to pure fentanyl.

It was recently reported that fentanyl has claimed the lives of at least 60 people in the UK over the last eight months. Sixty is a large number but it pales in comparison to the number of lives claimed by the drug in the US.

The process of making drugs is often frighteningly easy. For example, converting morphine to its far more addictive form heroin is an easy process that can be carried out with minimal knowledge and equipment. It is an attractive prospect for those wanting to make a quick profit. The biggest problem would be obtaining the raw materials, which in the case of morphine/heroin isn’t particularly difficult if you know where to look.

Fentanyl offers much greater profits per kilo than heroin but also presents greater problems. The chemistry needed to make fentanyl and its related compounds is not that difficult, at least on paper. Obtaining the raw materials is not the hardest part. The real problems occur in the practicalities of the chemical process needed to manufacture the drugs. These compounds are so potent that touching equipment contaminated with the drug can prove fatal. But, because it requires relatively specialised knowledge, the number of people producing fentanyl drugs illegally is quite small. However, because what they produce is so potent, a little bit goes a long way, and there is the potential to affect huge numbers of drug users.

On the positive side, if law enforcement can shut down just a few fentanyl factories it can dramatically reduce the number drug-related deaths. But even shutting down these factories is not straightforward. Drug raids have to be carefully planned. Going in all guns blazing can result in fentanyl powder being blown up into the air and officers needing emergency medical treatment. A police officer in the US was hospitalised simply because of brushing fentanyl powder off his uniform after an arrest.

There is no obvious quick fix to this growing problem. Reducing the number of opioid prescriptions may help lower the number of people who become addicted. Knowledge of the appalling effects of fentanyl may at least raise awareness but the chances of it deterring people from taking the drug seems a vain hope. One way of maybe reducing the number of deaths is making the opioid-blocker naloxone more widely available, but this is far from being a solution to the problem. Other ideas put forward have included making safer supplies of drugs available to users, at least temporarily. Leaving things as they are is not an option unless you want to see thousands more die. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but the future looks bleak.

Why fentanyl could become the UK’s most dangerous drug

Fentanyl is starting to hit the headlines in the UK. The drug is not so well-known this side of the Atlantic but, if experiences in America are anything to go by, that will change. Sadly, fentanyl is a problem that is unlikely to be going away.

Fentanyl is a powerful pain-relieving drug, 50 times more potent than morphine, and was originally synthesised by Belgian chemist Paul Jannsen. The drug has medical applications, for example, in anaesthesia and relieving pain from major surgery or cancer.

The drug interacts with the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin and is therefore called an opioid, even though it is chemically unrelated to opiates (drugs derived from opium poppies). Opioid receptors are part of the body’s reward pathway. Chemicals are released in our body to make us feel good as a reward for activities that help us survive and procreate, such as eating, drinking and sex. Increasing the presence of feelgood chemicals in our body is why opiates and opioids can be so powerfully addictive.

The body responds to repeated doses of opioids by desensitising the receptors. It means more opioid drugs have to be taken to achieve the same level of pain relief, when taken for medical reasons, or to reach the same high if taken recreationally. This is the development of tolerance. Those who have been taking opioids for a a longer period can cope with quantities that would kill new users or those who have lost their tolerance through a break in taking the drug.

For regular users, reducing the dose or stopping it means the body suddenly has receptors that need huge stimulation to relieve pain but no drug to stimulate them. Withdrawal from opioids can be agony. Every bone in the body hurts, you experience severe cold and goose bumps – hence the phrase “cold turkey”. With fentanyl the high is greater and so is the withdrawal. The desire to take more of the drug can be overwhelming.

Since the 1960s the fentanyl backbone has been modified and tinkered with to produce a huge number of variants that will differ in their interactions in the body. Some variants are more powerful sedatives than others and they differ in how long before they take effect. Carfentanil, for example, is thousands of times more powerful than morphine and is used to tranquilise elephants. It is so powerful that those who work with elephants, park rangers etc., are required to have two people present if they are planning to use carfentanil darts. One person is there to fire the dart, and the other, sitting next to them with the antidote ready, in case of an accidental scratch. Incredibly there have been cases of human consumption of carfentanil, spiked in heroin or cocaine.

Because fentanyl interacts with the same receptors as morphine, the same antidote can be used. Naloxone, also marketed as Narcan, binds to opioid receptors but doesn’t stimulate them, it simply blocks the site where the opioid would bind and reverses all the opioid’s effects. However, fentanyl binds much more strongly to these receptors meaning a much larger dose of the antidote is needed. Emergency staff in the US have been known to administer a dozen or more doses of naloxone in cases of fentanyl overdose with no appreciable effect.

The intense and rapid high produced by fentanyl has made it attractive drug for recreational use. Cutting fentanyl with drugs like heroin and cocaine dramatically intensifies the potency and makes it far more addictive, benefiting drug dealers with very dependent consumers. It also dramatically increases in chances of dying. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal for an adult. Fentanyl has become a large part of America’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl kills for the same reasons that opiates kill – they slow respiration until it stops. Death is by suffocation. Drugs administered by prescription or in hospital environments are quality controlled and used where the effects can be monitored and action taken if something goes wrong. By definition there is no such control in the illegal drugs trade. What is sold on the street could be anything from a little heroin, diluted with something fairly innocuous, to pure fentanyl.

It was recently reported that fentanyl has claimed the lives of at least 60 people in the UK over the last eight months. Sixty is a large number but it pales in comparison to the number of lives claimed by the drug in the US.

The process of making drugs is often frighteningly easy. For example, converting morphine to its far more addictive form heroin is an easy process that can be carried out with minimal knowledge and equipment. It is an attractive prospect for those wanting to make a quick profit. The biggest problem would be obtaining the raw materials, which in the case of morphine/heroin isn’t particularly difficult if you know where to look.

Fentanyl offers much greater profits per kilo than heroin but also presents greater problems. The chemistry needed to make fentanyl and its related compounds is not that difficult, at least on paper. Obtaining the raw materials is not the hardest part. The real problems occur in the practicalities of the chemical process needed to manufacture the drugs. These compounds are so potent that touching equipment contaminated with the drug can prove fatal. But, because it requires relatively specialised knowledge, the number of people producing fentanyl drugs illegally is quite small. However, because what they produce is so potent, a little bit goes a long way, and there is the potential to affect huge numbers of drug users.

On the positive side, if law enforcement can shut down just a few fentanyl factories it can dramatically reduce the number drug-related deaths. But even shutting down these factories is not straightforward. Drug raids have to be carefully planned. Going in all guns blazing can result in fentanyl powder being blown up into the air and officers needing emergency medical treatment. A police officer in the US was hospitalised simply because of brushing fentanyl powder off his uniform after an arrest.

There is no obvious quick fix to this growing problem. Reducing the number of opioid prescriptions may help lower the number of people who become addicted. Knowledge of the appalling effects of fentanyl may at least raise awareness but the chances of it deterring people from taking the drug seems a vain hope. One way of maybe reducing the number of deaths is making the opioid-blocker naloxone more widely available, but this is far from being a solution to the problem. Other ideas put forward have included making safer supplies of drugs available to users, at least temporarily. Leaving things as they are is not an option unless you want to see thousands more die. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but the future looks bleak.

Why fentanyl could become the UK’s most dangerous drug

Fentanyl is starting to hit the headlines in the UK. The drug is not so well-known this side of the Atlantic but, if experiences in America are anything to go by, that will change. Sadly, fentanyl is a problem that is unlikely to be going away.

Fentanyl is a powerful pain-relieving drug, 50 times more potent than morphine, and was originally synthesised by Belgian chemist Paul Jannsen. The drug has medical applications, for example, in anaesthesia and relieving pain from major surgery or cancer.

The drug interacts with the same opioid receptors as morphine and heroin and is therefore called an opioid, even though it is chemically unrelated to opiates (drugs derived from opium poppies). Opioid receptors are part of the body’s reward pathway. Chemicals are released in our body to make us feel good as a reward for activities that help us survive and procreate, such as eating, drinking and sex. Increasing the presence of feelgood chemicals in our body is why opiates and opioids can be so powerfully addictive.

The body responds to repeated doses of opioids by desensitising the receptors. It means more opioid drugs have to be taken to achieve the same level of pain relief, when taken for medical reasons, or to reach the same high if taken recreationally. This is the development of tolerance. Those who have been taking opioids for a a longer period can cope with quantities that would kill new users or those who have lost their tolerance through a break in taking the drug.

For regular users, reducing the dose or stopping it means the body suddenly has receptors that need huge stimulation to relieve pain but no drug to stimulate them. Withdrawal from opioids can be agony. Every bone in the body hurts, you experience severe cold and goose bumps – hence the phrase “cold turkey”. With fentanyl the high is greater and so is the withdrawal. The desire to take more of the drug can be overwhelming.

Since the 1960s the fentanyl backbone has been modified and tinkered with to produce a huge number of variants that will differ in their interactions in the body. Some variants are more powerful sedatives than others and they differ in how long before they take effect. Carfentanil, for example, is thousands of times more powerful than morphine and is used to tranquilise elephants. It is so powerful that those who work with elephants, park rangers etc., are required to have two people present if they are planning to use carfentanil darts. One person is there to fire the dart, and the other, sitting next to them with the antidote ready, in case of an accidental scratch. Incredibly there have been cases of human consumption of carfentanil, spiked in heroin or cocaine.

Because fentanyl interacts with the same receptors as morphine, the same antidote can be used. Naloxone, also marketed as Narcan, binds to opioid receptors but doesn’t stimulate them, it simply blocks the site where the opioid would bind and reverses all the opioid’s effects. However, fentanyl binds much more strongly to these receptors meaning a much larger dose of the antidote is needed. Emergency staff in the US have been known to administer a dozen or more doses of naloxone in cases of fentanyl overdose with no appreciable effect.

The intense and rapid high produced by fentanyl has made it attractive drug for recreational use. Cutting fentanyl with drugs like heroin and cocaine dramatically intensifies the potency and makes it far more addictive, benefiting drug dealers with very dependent consumers. It also dramatically increases in chances of dying. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can be fatal for an adult. Fentanyl has become a large part of America’s opioid crisis.

Fentanyl kills for the same reasons that opiates kill – they slow respiration until it stops. Death is by suffocation. Drugs administered by prescription or in hospital environments are quality controlled and used where the effects can be monitored and action taken if something goes wrong. By definition there is no such control in the illegal drugs trade. What is sold on the street could be anything from a little heroin, diluted with something fairly innocuous, to pure fentanyl.

It was recently reported that fentanyl has claimed the lives of at least 60 people in the UK over the last eight months. Sixty is a large number but it pales in comparison to the number of lives claimed by the drug in the US.

The process of making drugs is often frighteningly easy. For example, converting morphine to its far more addictive form heroin is an easy process that can be carried out with minimal knowledge and equipment. It is an attractive prospect for those wanting to make a quick profit. The biggest problem would be obtaining the raw materials, which in the case of morphine/heroin isn’t particularly difficult if you know where to look.

Fentanyl offers much greater profits per kilo than heroin but also presents greater problems. The chemistry needed to make fentanyl and its related compounds is not that difficult, at least on paper. Obtaining the raw materials is not the hardest part. The real problems occur in the practicalities of the chemical process needed to manufacture the drugs. These compounds are so potent that touching equipment contaminated with the drug can prove fatal. But, because it requires relatively specialised knowledge, the number of people producing fentanyl drugs illegally is quite small. However, because what they produce is so potent, a little bit goes a long way, and there is the potential to affect huge numbers of drug users.

On the positive side, if law enforcement can shut down just a few fentanyl factories it can dramatically reduce the number drug-related deaths. But even shutting down these factories is not straightforward. Drug raids have to be carefully planned. Going in all guns blazing can result in fentanyl powder being blown up into the air and officers needing emergency medical treatment. A police officer in the US was hospitalised simply because of brushing fentanyl powder off his uniform after an arrest.

There is no obvious quick fix to this growing problem. Reducing the number of opioid prescriptions may help lower the number of people who become addicted. Knowledge of the appalling effects of fentanyl may at least raise awareness but the chances of it deterring people from taking the drug seems a vain hope. One way of maybe reducing the number of deaths is making the opiod-blocker naloxone more widely available, but this is far from being a solution to the problem. Other ideas put forward have included making safer supplies of drugs available to users, at least temporarily. Leaving things as they are is not an option unless you want to see thousands more die. I sincerely hope I am wrong, but the future looks bleak.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.

Why are we giving away our most sensitive health data to Google? | Julia Powles

This week, a highly anticipated ruling found that the Royal Free London NHS Trust broke the law when it gifted 1.6m patient-identifiable records to Google’s DeepMind, in November 2015.

DeepMind, an artificial intelligence company, states that it hasn’t used the records except as directed by the hospital trust. Using synthetic data, DeepMind has built an app, Streams, which will provide clinical alerts about kidney injury, and it has used some real patient data to test the app (it turns out, unlawfully) and, since January, deploy it. But the problem isn’t with patients who have a clinical need for kidney alerts. It is with everyone else, whose data DeepMind has now carefully structured, formatted and stored.

The ruling states that by transferring this data and using it for app testing, the Royal Free breached four data protection principles, as well as patient confidentiality under the common law. The transfer was not fair, transparent, lawful, necessary or proportionate. Patients wouldn’t have expected it, they weren’t told about it and their information rights weren’t available to them.

Rather than deleting the data or being fined, the hospital trust has signed an undertaking to clean up its act, and has three months to produce justifications for all data processing planned and in process.

Bold statements have accompanied the ruling. The Information Commissioner’s Office, which oversees data protection and led the investigation, emphasised it has “no desire to prevent or hamper” technical or clinical progress. But as commissioner Elizabeth Denham stated, “it’s not a choice between privacy or innovation”, and the legal breaches “were avoidable”. She concluded: “The price of innovation didn’t need to be the erosion of legally ensured fundamental privacy rights.”

These comments were echoed by the national data guardian, Fiona Caldicott. She clarified that the core issue “was not that innovation was taking place to help patients … it was the [inappropriate] legal basis used to share data which could identify more than 1.6 million patients to DeepMind”.

But these admirable statements, while certainly correct, are undermined by the fact that this sensitive dataset continues to sit on DeepMind servers, as it has for 20 months – and even though, on DeepMind’s own admission, it apparently doesn’t need it. This is all the more frustrating given there is a technological solution that involves both innovation and privacy: retaining the data in hospital trusts, and interfacing with apps such as Streams only when a clinical need arises.

Ever since DeepMind’s work with the NHS hit public consciousness, there have been two major issues in play. The first is what has always looked like an opportunistic data-grab of millions of detailed patient records. Regulators have now brought the issue home, but only halfway, since there’s no real remedy, and the information commissioner fought shy on the question of DeepMind’s joint culpability for the breaches, as well as the data windfall still in its hands.

It remains to be seen if the ruling is enough to deter the next data opportunist or if, in the end, it only deepens what scholars term the surveillance-innovation complex, where our bodies are “a source of presumptively raw materials that are there for the taking”.

The second issue is even more urgent. This is the seeming willingness of NHS trusts to embed a subsidiary of Google in the heart of the public health service, and what precautions are being taken for the long-term interests of patients.

Disappointingly, pressing questions around this subject were ignored by an independent nine-member panel that has enjoyed privileged access to DeepMind over the past year and issued its annual findings this week. The panel limited itself to recommendations about public engagement to address problems of “perception” about DeepMind’s ownership by Google.

Giving away our most sensitive and valuable data, for free, to a global giant, with completely uncertain future costs, is a decision of dramatic consequence. Yet crucial public conversation on this topic has been severely stunted. The Royal Free’s response this week, that it would forge ahead with DeepMind “to ensure the NHS does not get left behind”, does little to reassure that anything will change.