Home Office reveals Class A use increase

By Liz Stephens

One in ten adults of working age took Class A drugs in the last year, according to Home Office figures published today.

The figures from the British Crime Survey also show illicit drug usage among 16-to-24-year-olds is increasing, with more than half a million young adults taking cocaine and ecstasy in the last year.

Increases were seen in the use of cocaine powder, ecstasy, tranquillisers, anabolic steroids and ketamine.

But the findings also show that cannabis use among young people is declining.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope, said the rise in the use of cocaine was particularly troubling: “While this is not necessarily a surprise given the drug’s decrease in price and increase in availability over recent years, it is of significant concern, particularly the rise in use among younger people.

“Cocaine use is now at its highest level among adults since 1996.”

However, Home Office minister Alan Campbell said it was encouraging that overall drug use remained historically low and that use of the most harmful drugs, such as heroin, was stable.

He said the government was not complacent: “We are taking comprehensive action to tackle cocaine use, from increased enforcement to reduce the supply, along with effective treatment, education and early intervention for those most at risk.”

However Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne said: “These alarming figures show that the Government has failed to tackle the supply and use of the worst drugs like cocaine, particularly among young people.

“By ignoring the experts of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on which drugs matter most, ministers have helped reduce the importance of tackling the most harmful substances.”

Recent police seizures of cocaine have revealed that purity has reached an all time low.

“When people think they are taking cocaine, in some instances the actual purity is as low as four per cent,” said Mr Campbell.

The survey also reveals the profile of the average cocaine user is white, young, male, a regular clubber and single.

Home Office researchers say that marital status is the strongest factor associated with predicting illicit drug use. If a man gets married he is more likely to give up drugs.