Doctors’ Concern Over Cocaine Use

Doctors at Wales’ largest casualty department have expressed concerns over the number of patients suffering side-effects from cocaine use. Official estimates show the five per cent of adults in Wales have used the drug, more than the UK average.

Accident and emergency consultant Rupert Evans said more people were coming into the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff because of the drug.

One user said the cheaper cost of the cocaine made it more accessible.

Its use has increased four-fold across England and Wales in the past decade, according to official figures.

Mr Evans told the BBC Wales programme Eye on Wales the problem of adverse reactions from cocaine usage was becoming more prevalent among patients coming to the A&E unit in Cardiff.

“It’s definitely on the increase. You can get acute brain effects so people can be very agitated,” he said.

“You can then have cardiac effects so the effects on the heart are very serious – you get pulse increases, your blood pressure goes up very high to the extent that it can put you at risk or having a heart attack.”

One man who uses the drug told Eye on Wales: “In my opinion I would say [cocaine] is 150% more prevalent than it used to be.

“So many people I know are doing it. For me it’s a shock.

“It was always very expensive, that’s what put people off, but nowadays you can get a gramme of coke for about £35.”

He said he was not concerned about the potential health risks of the drug, adding: “I’m going to go at some point so I’d rather enjoy my life that I have now.”

Drug charity Turning Point runs the only dedicated project in Wales for cocaine and its derivative crack.

Project manager Glyn Davies said cocaine users were not always aware of the help that was on offer.

“Services are not marketed in what they offer to crack cocaine users, so it’s a chicken and egg situation – if you don’t get people coming through the door, then you don’t have the statistics to prove the need for the service,” he said.

“There are a lot more people and crack cocaine users out in the community who are not accessing treatment and these are people that we need to get out and reach.”

Plaid Cymrus’s social justice spokeswoman Leanne Wood said the assembly government has no way of measuring how effective drug reduction policies are, despite a commitment four years ago to reduce usage in Wales.

“The problem is back in 2002 when those targets were set, there was no benchmark data to measure against.

“Now were in a situation where we can’t measure at all whether or not these targets have been met,” she said.

Ms Wood added when she asked in a recent letter to Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart how much drug usage had dropped by, the minister replied the information was not collected.

Ms Hart did not respond to Eye on Wales’ requests for information on how accurate government figures on cocaine and crack cocaine usage were.