Britons drinking less but taking more drugs: David Nicholson-Lord looks at the latest snapshot of society from the Central Statistical Office

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH are drinking less but taking more drugs, the latest issue of Regional Trends, published by the Central Statistical Office, says today. While alcohol consumption fell during the 1980s, drug crime increased rapidly, with a fourfold rise in Scotland and a threefold increase in the West Midlands and the North-west.

Regional Trends shows that the drug offence rate in the UK more than doubled between 1981 and 1990, from 31 to 78 per 100,000 population. In the South-east, which has the most drug crimes, it rose from 57 to 124. The increase in drug addiction was greatest in the North-west, where by 1990 the number of addicts was 13 times greater than in 1981.

Although most people were drinking less there were some pronounced variations. Alcohol consumption dropped by a quarter in the North and a fifth in the South- east outside London but rose by more than a quarter in Yorkshire and Humberside.

The biggest drinkers are in Yorkshire and Humberside and the North-west, consuming 11.6 and 11.2 units of alchohol respectively a week (one unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to a glass of wine or a half pint of beer). East Anglians were the most moderate, drinking seven units. Scots are not included in this comparison but they retain their imperviousness to health propaganda. Thirty-four per cent of Scots smoke, the highest figure in the UK: the South-west, at 27 per cent, is the lowest.

Drug abuse is a major cause of HIV transmission in Scotland, accounting for half of all cases. In other areas it is responsible for less than a fifth. Scotland also has the highest male suicide rate in the UK - 17 per 100,000 people, almost double the rate of the lowest region, the North which has a rate of 9.

The highest crime rate is in the North and, outside Northern Ireland, lowest in East Anglia and the South-west. These last two were the 'boom' regions of the last decade or two, registering population increases, good educational performance, low unemployment rates, high self-employment and low crime rates. However, prosperity may be bringing crime to the South-west. Crime rates there grew 72 per cent between 1981 and 1990, a rate second only to the 75 per cent growth in the North.

Clear-up rates for crime vary between two in five in Wales and one in five in the South-east. East Anglia, with the lowest crime rate in England and Wales, also has the fewest police officers and one of the best clear-up rates.

Regional Trends 27; HMSO; pounds 24.75.

----------------------------------------------------------------- HOUSEHOLDS WITH SELECTED DURABLE GOODS 1980-1981 AND 1989-1990 ----------------------------------------------------------------- 1980/1981 1989/1990 Eng Wales Scot N I Eng Wales Scot N I Microwave oven - - - - 49 54 42 32 Washing machine 76 81 83 70 86 88 91 83 Tumble drier 22 23 24 - 45 44 47 36 Dishwasher 4 2 3 - 13 8 10 9 Refrigerator 93 91 91 85 - - - 98 Freezer 48 50 39 - 81 82 73 63 Telephone 74 67 74 57 88 84 84 77 Black & white TV only 25 27 21 - 5 5 4 8 Colour TV 72 71 76 - 93 93 94 89 Video - - - - 62 62 60 44 Home computer - - - - 20 19 18 12 Central heating 59 52 51 37 80 78 74 76 ----------------------------------------------------------------- For television in 1980-81 Northern Ireland had a figure of 91% for colour and black and white combined -----------------------------------------------------------------

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