Britain: A nation hooked on coke – crisis as 750,000 snort the deadly drug
COCAINE use has trebled in Britain over the past 20 years.
The deadly drug is no longer the preserve of the well-off and is now widely used throughout society, a shock report said.
Brits are among the heaviest users in Europe and only cannabis is more popular in the UK.
A study showed use “bloomed” after dealers introduced cheap, low-purity cocaine in the mid-90s.
According to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report, 0.6% of 16-59 year-olds took cocaine in 1996 compared to a peak of 3% – or 885,000 people – by 2009.
It is thought 750,000 Brits take it now.
The drug, which can cause heart attacks, kills hundreds each year.
Research boss Professor Les Iversen said: “It used to be the case it was the drug of the wealthy but it’s not the case anymore.”
The National Crime Agency say they cannot tell why prices spiked from £55 per gram in 2003 to £101 in 2009, then dropped again to £54 in 2013.
One factor believed to be at play however, could be the influx of Albanian gangs.
“One trend we have been able to see is Albanian OCGs – organised criminal gangs – being able to undercut traditional competitors in terms of the market for cocaine at international wholesale level,” an NCA spokesman told The Telegraph.
It is also not just a drug for those in their 20s – it is the older, more affluent users who could also be responsible for a new turn in pricing.
The AMCD report explains that many users of the drugs are in their 40s or 50s – and are not just trying it for the first time.
These users may also be responsible for the differing levels of purity of the drug.
The charity DrugScope says its surveys show that dealers are offering “premium” cocaine costing anything up to £200 a gram which may have up to 30% purity, compared to £50 a gram bags which may have 10% purity.
Analysis of cocaine samples found 50 different types of cutting agents – including a worming agent used on cows – which are used to bulk up the drug.
Despite the rise of the older drug user it is no longer thought of as part of a “celebrity lifestyle” Prof Iverson stressed.
“Consumption of powdered cocaine in the United Kingdom has changed radically over the last two decades. Once characterised as the preserve of wealthy bankers and celebrities, the research highlighted in this report shows a cheaper, low-purity version of the drug has permeated society more widely.”
The drug’s association with celebrities has led to misconceptions about its safety, Prof Iverson added.
He said: “The association of cocaine with celebrity culture is one of the reasons that some people think misguidedly this is a safe drug. Because that person has taken it. This is not doing a service to understanding of the realities of the drug.”