11 November 2001

Addiction journal goes 'troppo con molto prezzo'.

Dear Colleagues,

The (UK) Society for the Study of Addiction has sent out a somewhat apologetic note with the normal subscription notice this month. Under the name of Christine Godfrey, SSA President, we are informed of the excellent news that all members, for the yearly rate of 75 pounds or US$150 will now receive 4 copies of Addiction Biology in addition to the 12 issues of Addiction and special 'supplements' each year. For an additional 12 pounds, we are told that members can also have on-line access. For us in the distant antipodes, where mails take up to six weeks, this on-line bonus is indeed welcome.

The management is to be congratulated for these moves. That said, similar promises have been made in the past. In March 1998 Addiction's blue cover proudly announced "available online". But it wasn't. Not to me, anyway. I know as I tried all year unsuccessfully punching passwords and down-loading software to make it all happen. To this day, the cover bears that same caption 'AVAILABLE ONLINE'. Apparently it can be down-loaded by enterprising librarians and other institutional subscribers. My library did not seem able to do so.

Another enticing piece nearly 5 years ago, in May 1997 was entitled: "Join the Society for the Study of Addiction" ... "A World Wide Web site is under development and it is proposed in the near future to set up an Internet bulletin board for members to exchange ideas and request information. These are exciting times for the Society ... ". [Vol 92(5) p636]. I should have contained my excitement since recent editions still state the same! "A World Wide Web site is under development and it is proposed in the near future ...". [Vol 96 (10) p1530]. One is tempted to wonder whether the Society is really serious about encouraging debate.

Addiction once devoted a column to ME! But rather than robust academic discourse it was a clumsy attempt at 'ad hominem' sarcasm following a critical letter on 'decrimalization'. In fact it was hard to understand the meaning of the swagger by Susan Savva in 'News and Notes', but she was clearly enjoying herself at my expense [Vol 95 p1875-6]. Interestingly, the British government seems not to agree with her line of argument as they are now making minor cannabis possession a non-arrestable offence.

On even more serious matters, I have written to the editor, sub-editors and other esteemed members at various times in recent years about the pressing need to improve the quality of methadone and other treatments in the UK and Australia. I pointed out that the Journal had not broached this issue, nor what might be done about it. I was politely told that this issue was being looked into and that a piece was proposed.

All I have seen to date has been a somewhat pompous and contradictory editorial on the possible mischief attended by harm reduction, "quo vadis", by a savant from Montreal. It stated magnanimously that when given properly, methadone treatment 'worked' and was not questioned by leaders in the field. The author then proceeded to question agonist treatments (!). Two recent letters-in-reply were politely critical ... personally, I find it hard to be polite about curbs on simple measures which save lives.

Despite all, I will probably be renewing my subscription to this venerable organ which is nearly into its hundredth year.

comments by Andrew Byrne ..