More of Britain is on the sniff, according to a new report that suggests cocaine use has trebled since the mid-Nineties. No longer is the white powder the preserve of insecure celebrities or tired bankers, with the emergence of cheap, low-purity form of cocaine opening up the drug to the masses.
Also bumping up the numbers is the growth of older users, the report finding people well into their fifties happy to key a line of showbusiness – a phenomenon not found with other drugs. "Consumption of powdered cocaine in the United Kingdom has changed radically over the last two decades,” said Professor Les Iversen, chair of the ACMD. "I believe the drug is firmly embedded in UK society."
In 1996, only 0.6% of 16-59 year-olds had tried powdered cocaine. That figures had risen to 3% by 2009. Still, the overall number of people taking coke remains small, said Tim Miller, one of the authors of the report, who warned against launching any anti-cocaine education campaign. "One of my worries is that if people think everyone is doing it then they might think it's OK to do it," he said.
Cocaine use can lead to strokes, heart attacks, over-heating of body temperature to life threatening levels and psychiatric problems, doctors warn. Dr Paul McLaren, a medical director at the Priory Group, which treats for drug and alcohol abuse across its 250 sites, echoed the report’s findings. "What I've seen is a wider range of use both across age range and the social spectrum", he said.