Class A drug use among young people highest in a decade as price of cocaine falls

A fall in the price of cocaine has led to the highest number of young people using class A drugs in more than a decade, experts say.

Cocaine prices are at their lowest levels in more than 25 years and young people are finding Class A drugs easily accessible, charities warned.  The drug is more widely available thanks to mobile phones and is being distributed to users outside city centres thanks to “county lines” in which gangs use children to export their trade to suburban and rural areas.

Figures released by the Home Office from the Crime Survey of England and Wales for 2017/18 show that 8.4 per cent of 16 to 24 year-olds had used Class A drugs in the last year, compared to seven per cent in 2016/17.

The proportion is the highest since 2005/6 and a significant rise from the recent low of 4.8 per cent, seen in 2012/13.  Six per cent had used powder cocaine, up from 4.8 per cent in the previous year and the highest figure since 2008/2009.

Figures from the UN’s 2018 World Drug Report show that in 2016 the street price of a gram of cocaine in the UK was $54 (£41), the cheapest at any point since 1990, when the time series begins. In 2007 the price was $91 (£69), and prices climbed as high as $128 (£97) in 1998.

Yasmin Batliwala, chair of London-based drug and alcohol treatment charity WDP, said young people were paying as little as £30 for a gram.

“Our young people’s services have seen a significant rise in the use of Class A drugs. The primary drug of choice has always been alcohol, as well as cannabis, but certainly in the last two or more years the use of Class A drugs has increased substantially.  “Class A drugs such as cocaine are extremely easily available. It’s actually very difficult to avoid drugs these days.In terms of price the cost has come down, so they’re not that expensive,” she said.

Harry Shapiro, of DrugWise, said the lower price of the drug meant users no longer had to be “city boys with lots of money”.  Mobile phones also made it easier for people to “hook into a regular supply,” he said. “You’ve got a broader network of distribution making it available in places where it wasn’t before, and they don’t have to hang around on street corners waiting for a bloke any more.

“Some people have got their dealer on speed dial and it’s a bit like home delivery of pizza.  All of that allows for a more discreet, wider network of distribution.”

Earlier this month addiction charity Addaction said its drug workers were dealing with children as young as 13 who were addicted to cocaine.  The organisation said the issue was a particular problem in Scotland, where its South Lanarkshire service has lowered the age threshold of its services from 14 to 13.

One of the charity’s workers Jacqueline Baker-Whyte said: “In the past, cocaine was a drug for people with money. That’s no longer the case. It’s cheap, plentiful and easy to get. The ‘quality’ is usually poor and the side effects can be horrendous.”

A spokeswoman for drugs charity Release said the figures showed that “criminalisation does not deter drug use”.
“The reported increase in recent powder cocaine use could be attributed to the drug’s reduced street-level price, and its higher purity,” she added.

Source: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/26/class-drug-use-among-young-people-highest-decade-price-cocaine

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