Cocaine and crack use at record levels in Britain

Rising demand for drugs is fuelling violent crime, say police and politicians. But the problem isn't so black and white.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, United Kingdom
Cocaine and crack use at record levels in Britain - NewsMavens
Woman smoking crack cocaine. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

Increasing use of cocaine amongst the British middle-class is being tied to a patchwork of global issues.

UN figures show cocaine production is "booming", with record levels of crops in Mexico and Colombia.

Politicians and police in the UK have criticized the elite who have progressive politics but whose drug use fuels violence throughout the drug trade.

The cocaine trade is the biggest it's ever been in the UK. Demand there is among the highest in the world. England and Wales has the fourth highest global use, and Scotland has the second.

Details from the story:

  • Figures from an England and Wales crime survey showed an increase of cocaine use in those in the highest income bracket. Use has increased from 2.2% in 2014/15 to 3.4% in 2017/18.
  • Cocaine was used by approximately 875,000 people in 2017-18 according to the survey.
  • Middle-class drug users will be targeted as part of a crackdown on the causes of violent crime, Home Secretary Sajid Javid.
  • The chief of London's Metropolitan Police said the middle-class, who have progressive politics but fuel drug violence, were "hypocrites".
  • But JS Rafaeli, the author of Drug Wars, criticises a "cliched" view of cocaine amongst the middle-class. "When politicians do have a crack at the middle-class cocaine users, it obscures the real root of this problem," said Rafaeli.
  • It's not just middle class users that are driving demand. Crack cocaine, commonly used amongst poorer communities, use has risen by 44% in England in two years.
  • Crack cocaine is often used alongside other drugs, such as heroin. In 1971 there were 1,049 known heroin addicts in the UK. Now it's in the hundreds of thousands, says Rafaeli, who adds that the prohibition of drugs is the most radically-failed policy in history.
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