UK becomes drug capital of Europe in alarming new report
More 15-year-olds are now using drugs too, reveals the Government’s United Kingdom Drug Situation report for 2019.
Experts say the country is on a “cliffedge of crisis” and there is a need for drastic action.
The Home Office and Public Health England report shows the UK has the highest rate of drug use recorded in the past 10 years with cannabis, cocaine, MDMA, ketamine and amphetamine the most widely used.
Last year 9.4 percent of people in England and Wales took illegal drugs – up from 8.5 percent 10 years ago, while 12 percent of people in Scotland took drugs, up from nine percent.
The mortality rate in 2017, the latest year for which figures are available, was 76 deaths per million population in Great Britain. In Scotland it rose to 229 per million – the highest rate reported in Europe that year.
Figures also show that in 2018 38 percent of 15-year-olds in England said they had used drugs, compared with 30 percent five years earlier. In Scotland 21 percent of 15-year-olds said they had used drugs, up from 18 percent in 2013.
The UK also had the highest levels of opioid and crack cocaine use. In 2017, 57,430 people started treatment for opioid use in the UK, which was 35 percent of the total for the European Union. Of the 11,000 people who were recorded as starting treatment for crack addiction across Europe in 2017, 65 percent of these were in the UK. Germany was not included in the data.
Eytan Alexander, managing director of the company UK Addiction Treatment, said: “The UK has become the capital of drugs in Europe. We’re now on the cliff-edge of a real drugs crisis. “We need to get a handle on our drug prevalence problem now, without delay. People are dying, it is as serious as that.
“We implore our government and health ministers to sit up and listen, and to take drastic action with regards to funding national prevention strategies.
“The more people use drugs, especially at such young ages, the more we will see people die from drugs. How can we be OK with that?” Experts blamed an increase in supply from South America and the use of social media and county lines gangs – where drug dealers exploit youngsters to deliver drugs outside major cities – for the rise.
A rock of crack cocaine can now be bought for as little as £5 – down from £20 five years ago. Crack and heroin are now so cheap that dealers are offering “buy one get one free” deals and monthly payment schemes.
Harry Shapiro, director of DrugWise – an online drug information forum – said: “Police seizures show there is now much less adulteration and higher purity in drugs.
“The chaotic political situation in parts of South America has meant an increase in production there and we are seeing this on UK streets.
“Despite lockdown there have been no shortages and some people are getting drugs delivered to their homes.
“But the use of enforcement to users, many of whom are homeless, in and out of prison, or suffering mental health problems is not the only way to deal with this.
“We need to also help people and target largescale dealers too.”
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