Child Drug Use Falls While More Adults Take Cocaine

The falling cost of cocaine has been blamed for a rise in the number of adults taking illegal drugs. Official figures have revealed that while child drug use has fallen, adult use has risen slightly.

A report into illegal drug use in England and Wales pinpointed the growing use of cocaine as the reason for the increase. And although fewer school children have admitted using drugs, almost a third of 15-year-olds admitted they have taken drugs in the last year.

Cannabis use – including the use of powerful “skunk” – among teenagers in England and Wales is among the highest in Europe. The report also revealed that there has been a rise in the number of people who have been referred to specialist drug services.

Professor Denise Lievesley, chief executive of the Information Centre for health and social care, which published the figures, said, “While it is pleasing to see that overall drug use seems to be dipping, and more people are accessing treatment, the increase in the use of Class A drugs – fuelled by higher consumption of cocaine – gives us cause for concern.

“We hope that government, policy makers and the NHS will use these figures to help inform the development of strategies aimed at reducing the harm caused by illegal drug use.”

The report found that, in 2005-06, 10.5% of adults aged 16 to 59 reported using drugs in the last year, down from 12.1% in 1998. More men reported having taken drugs in the last year than women – 13.7% compared with 7.4%.

But the number of adults taking Class A drugs in England and Wales has risen from 2.7% in 1998 to 3.4% in 2005-06 – mainly due to an increase in the use of cocaine.

The price of cocaine has been falling steadily in recent years – a gram now costs around £40 to £55 compared with £70 at the turn of the century. The number of cocaine-related deaths has also risen, from 88 in 1999 to 147 in 2004 – an increased of 67%.

The report, Statistics on Drug Misuse: England 2007, which covers England and Wales, revealed that although drug use among 11 to 15-year-olds was down on the previous year, Class A drug use has remained unchanged.

Almost four out of 10 in the 15 and 16-year-old bracket in the UK had tried cannabis. More than half of 15-year-olds said they had been offered cannabis and 18% had ever been offered cocaine and ecstasy.

A third said they felt obtaining drugs would be easy. A spokeswoman for Cyswllt Ceredigion Contact, a charity supporting people with drug and alcohol problems, said, “…When considering the high rate of teenagers trying cannabis, it should be remembered that roughly 60% of this is extremely strong skunk.

“This poses a mental health threat to a high proportion of Britain’s teenagers – 10,000 of whom were treated for cannabis addiction last year. We note the increase in adult cocaine use which is also a potential mental health time bomb.

“As an organisation working with both drugs and alcohol, we would like to highlight the rise in teenage alcohol abuse not covered in this report.”