The UK's drug advisers are to review the effects of cocaine after describing as "deeply concerning" figures showing big jumps in its usage.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said use of the "very harmful" drug had increased five-fold among 16 to 59-year-olds during the past 12 years and the purity of street samples had decreased.
Writing to the Home Secretary, the council's chairman Professor Les Iversen said he hoped his review would "counteract the increasingly common misapprehension that cocaine is a relatively safe drug".
His letter cites recent British Crime Survey statistics showing that 6.6% of 16 to 24-year-olds used cocaine last year, compared to 1.3% in 1996.
Usage among those aged 16 to 59 also jumped from 0.6% to 3% during the same period.
Prof Iversen - whose predecessor Professor David Nutt was sacked last year for criticising government drug policy - said that he did not expect the report to result in a call for a change in the classification of cocaine's existing Class A status.
He also said that along with the drug's increased usage, the purity of samples had been decreasing thanks to more "cutting agents" being added.
The professor wrote: "Cocaine is a very harmful drug to individuals and more broadly society and evidence of the continued increasing prevalence of cocaine use is deeply concerning."
Yesterday NHS figures showed that growing numbers of children were being treated for cocaine addiction.
Since 2005, the number of under-18s being helped to get off the drug has increased by more than 65%, the data revealed. Treatment numbers for 18 to 24-year-olds also doubled in the same period.
Former ACMD head Prof Nutt was fired for criticising the Government's decision to reclassify cannabis to Class B from C.
Prof Iversen's review is expected to take about a year.Reuse content