British Cocaine Use Now Second Highest Globally

British Cocaine Use Now Second Highest Globally

Cocaine Use in the UK: A Growing Epidemic

The UK has the second highest rate of cocaine use globally, surpassed only by Australia, according to a recent study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). With over 2% of British adults using cocaine annually, the UK is the cocaine capital of Europe. This represents a worrying upward trend, as cocaine-related deaths have increased over 7-fold in the past decade.

Experts attribute this spike to a dangerous combination of cheap, potent cocaine and a drinking culture that normalises its use. Cocaine can now be purchased for as little as £10 per gram, and its purity has risen as smuggling of cutting agents into the country has been curtailed. This makes overdoses more likely, especially among naive users.

The rise in cocaine use and related harms disproportionately affects young men. Government data shows that men are twice as likely to use cocaine as women. Usage peaks between ages 16 and 24, with over 5% of young adults reporting past-year cocaine use. At the same time, the numbers of older people using cocaine have been increasing.

Though cocaine may seem harmless to the casual user, its health consequences can be severe. The drug raises heart rate and blood pressure, putting users at risk of heart attacks and arrhythmias. Heavy use can also lead to anxiety, paranoia, and full-blown psychosis requiring hospitalisation. In 2022 alone, cocaine contributed to the deaths of over 850 people in England and Wales.

To curb this growing public health threat, experts are calling for government-led prevention efforts including pub toilet posters and stadium ads showcasing cocaine’s risks. Some also advocate for further crackdowns on smuggling to reduce cocaine potency and affordability. However, with use already so widespread, harm reduction measures like drug checking services may be equally important.

The UK’s cocaine problem has been building for years, but is now reaching a crisis point. Concerted action across sectors is needed to prevent thousands more unnecessary deaths and change norms around this dangerous yet pervasive drug.

Photo by Colin Davis on Unsplash

Zoom Testing is a leading UK drug testing company and a supplier of Drug Test Kits.

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