By Calvin Palmer
Britain has been pronounced the cocaine capital of Europe by a United Nations drugs report.
With more than one million users, the UK is the largest market for cocaine across Europe and has the second highest prevalence rate — 2.3 per cent — behind Spain, which is the second-largest market followed by Italy and Germany.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime also found that five percent of schoolchildren have tried the drug, while three percent of youngsters aged 15 and 16 claim to have tried crack cocaine.
The report also states that four percent of youngsters have taken ecstasy and three out of 10 have tried cannabis.
But the UN report suggests that cocaine users are not getting value for money.
The purity of average cocaine seizures by police fell from 32 per cent in 2007 to 23 per cent in the first quarter of this year, while purity levels of cocaine seized by customs in the same period fell from 67 per cent to 56 per cent.
“Almost one third of cocaine seizures now have purity levels of less than 9 per cent and in some small-scale seizures at the retail level purity levels were as low as 4 to 5 per cent,” the report said.
The UN said that dealers were diluting their product with cutting agents such as dental and veterinary anaesthetics that mimicked the effects of cocaine but were much cheaper.
It said that the increased dilution of cocaine within the UK suggested the establishment of large international trafficking activities in cutting agents which were usually legal substances.
Cocaine wholesale prices in the UK rose from £30,000 ($49,000) per kilogram in 2007 to £45,000 ($74,000) per kilogram in the first three months of this year.
Today’s report estimates that there are 860,000 cocaine users in England and Wales, and 140,000 in Northern Ireland and Scotland combined.
Chris Grayling, the Shadow Home Secretary, said the study showed that the Government was failing to tackle the drug problem. He said: “This is a really depressing snapshot of the drugs problem in the UK and underlines just how ineffective the Government’s strategy on dealing with the drug problem has been.”
The latest Home Office figures show that there were 20,318 cocaine seizures in England and Wales in 2007/8, amounting to a total of 3.4 tonnes.
The UN report details the supply routes that bring drugs to the UK. Cocaine is shipped here via the Caribbean or, increasingly, the west coast of Africa.
On a slow news day, reports such as this one help fill space in newspapers.
As to the actual content, and particularly the statistics cited by this report, they need to be taken with a pinch of another white substance — salt!
Has every 15 and 16 year-old in Britain been questioned about their drug use? No! So just how reliable are these figures?