Cocaine use has risen 25 per cent in some major UK cities over just one year, new research suggests.
Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said that its waste water analysis in cities such as London and Manchester more effectively determines the quantity and type of drugs being consumed than its previous estimates based on surveys and seized drugs.
Almost 120 tonnes of cocaine is estimated to be consumed in the UK each year, and the country remains Europe’s biggest market for the illegal Class A drug.
Biggar warned: “Illegal drug use remains the major driver of serious and organised crime, and is linked to firearms, serious violence, modern slavery, burglary and robbery, and money laundering.”
He added: “Drugs are now sold on the darkweb as well as the street corner. And they kill. Over 4,500 people died from drug misuse in 2021 (our last full year of data).”
The NCA’s National Strategic Assessment 2023 also highlighted that cannabis “is still the most widely used illegal drug in the UK particularly amongst young adults”.
Over 4,500 people died from drug misuse in 2021
It warned: “Cannabis cultivation in the UK continues at an industrial scale and is often linked to other offences including benefit fraud, energy theft, modern slavery, robbery and violence.”
Earlier this month, the UK Government shot down the SNP’s push to decriminalise all drugs for personal use.
Under the Scottish Government’s proposals, addicts would no longer be criminalised for possessing Class A drugs such as cocaine or heroin unless they intend to supply it to others. Drug consumption rooms would also be introduced where addicts could inject themselves without fear of arrest.
In response, the Home Office said: “Illegal drugs destroy lives and devastate communities. We are committed to preventing drug use by supporting people through treatment and recovery and tackling the supply of illegal drugs, as set out in our 10-year drugs strategy.
“We have no plans to decriminalise drugs given the associated harms, including the risks posed by organised criminals, who will use any opportunity to operate an exploitative and violent business model.”