Home Secretary Priti Patel has asked drug experts to launch an investigation into the rising use of cocaine among young people.
Writing to Professor Owen Bowden-Jones, who heads the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), Patel emphasised that “tackling drug misuse and the harms that it causes is a top priority for this Government”.
She highlighted the findings of an independent review by Professor Dame Carol Black earlier this year, which revealed cocaine use had “increased sharply over the past five years”, particularly among “white males aged under 30”.
As the leading priority in her three-year plan, Patel called on the ACMD “to give consideration to what lies behind some of the trends which her analysis identified”.
She said: “The issue of what is driving this type of drug use has been the subject of much interest and debate in recent months in the media and among the public.”
The Home Secretary asked the advisory council to consider why some young people start using powder cocaine, and why they continue to use it into adulthood.
She also tasked them with investigating: “How could we use this insight to prevent young people using powder cocaine for the first time, and divert them from ongoing use?”
Recent years have seen regular calls for drugs to be decriminalised, but Patel said the Government remains committed to restricting the supply of illegal drugs.
She said: “As the ACMD expertise in the field of law enforcement and tackling drug supply is increasing, I would like to receive your advice and analysis of trends in drug trafficking on the dark net, and how enforcement might most effectively intervene in the movement of drugs facilitated by both the clear and dark net.”
She also said she would consider commissioning a report into the impact that COVID-19 and the lockdown have had on drug use.
In May, Britain was branded the “cocaine capital of Europe”, with estimates that usage has almost quadrupled in less than a decade.
In 2011, the amount of cocaine trafficked into the country was 30 tonnes. Last year, Britons took 117 tonnes of the substance.
Lawrence Gibbons, head of drug threat at the National Crime Agency, said: “The UK is the biggest user of powder cocaine in Europe.”