Young women are now on a par with men for abusing cocaine after a sharp increase in those taking the Class A drug.

One in 15 women aged ten to 25 admit they have taken the drug after the proportion increased by a third in just three years.   The sharp rise has sparked concerns that young women will soon overtake their male counterparts for cocaine use.
It echoes patterns seen with alcohol abuse where there has been a rise in women binge-drinkers and will further fuel evidence of a growing “ladette” culture.
Cocaine is seen as more socially acceptable and glamorous as high profile celebrities such as Kate Moss, Jodie Kidd and Amy Winehouse have been exposed for alleged involvement with the drug.   Even opera singer Katherine Jenkins has admitted to taking cocaine a number of times several years ago but has since spoken out against drugs.
The pattern was revealed in a report on drug use in England for the Chief Medical Officer by the (National) Association of Public Health Observatories, published today.
Jim McVeigh, the co-author and an epidemiologist at Liverpool John Moores University, said: “We should not be surprised by these figures because we have seen the same thing happening with alcohol, which is intrinsically linked with cocaine.
“As women have become more and more prevalent in drinking environments they have been more exposed to cocaine which at the same time has also become more widely available and cheaper.   “There is also not the same stigma attached to it as with some other drugs, it is more socially acceptable especially with celebrities helping to give it a glamorous image.
“There is also the feeling among women that they can take cocaine on an occasional social basis and not get hooked, but that of course is not necessarily the case with many ending up experiencing medical problems.”
Figures show in 2003 some 4.8 per cent of women aged ten to 25 in England admited to having tried cocaine while 8.2 per cent of men had.    By 2006, 6.7 per cent of women in the same age group had taken cocaine while the proportion of men had fallen to 7.3 per cent.
Earlier this year the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System revealed the number of women seeking help for addiction to cocaine has doubled in two years.
Last year, 2,923 women and girls sought treatment for the Class A drug and the Ministry of Justice says since 2002 there has been a fivefold increase in the number of females cautioned for possession.
There are also added health risks because dealers often “cut” their cocaine with other, unknown chemicals to increase the amount that they can sell.
MPs were warned yesterday that a “new industry” is developing in the UK for cutting cocaine to reduce its purity.
Harry Shapiro, director of communications for the charity DrugScope, said pain killers are even being mixed in to give the same “numbing” effect to suggest the drug is stronger.   But Mr Shapiro dismissed the suggestion that celebrity drug abuse influences youngsters as “ludicrous”.
He was giving evidence to the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, where one Labour member appeared to attempt to smear senior Conservatives in a dig at Oxford University’s elite Bullingdon Club.   Martin Salter asked the witnesses when cocaine had gone from being “the preserve of the Bullingdon Club and posh dinner parties to working class estates?”
Former members of the famous university social club include David Cameron, George Osbourne and Boris Johnson.   Today’s report also reveals the rate of use across all ages who have admitted taking cocaine has increased overall, and substantially in most English regions between 2002/03 and 2007/08.
Regionally, about 47,000 crack cocaine users are estimated to live in London (2006/07), one and a half times more per 1,000 population (aged 15-64) than the national average.   Overall, more deprived communities were associated with higher levels of problematic drug use and drug treatment than more affluent communities.
Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, said: “Drug misuse has a profound impact on health and wellbeing, affecting not only users, but their families and surrounding communities.”
Source: 10th June 2009

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