Coke is so last year as posh hedonists turn to crack

Around the dinner tables of Chelsea they're handing round pipes like their Fifties forebears' after-dinner mints
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The Independent Online

As readers of broadsheet newspaper supplements know, many things are the new crack. "Burgundy is crack for the middle classes," enthuses one. "Xbox is crack for the playground," frets another. For parents of triplets, apparently, "sleep is the new crack". But they're wrong. Because among certain self-indulgent elements of the affluent classes, crack is the new crack. Just ask the Tetra Pak billionaires.

Eva and Hans Kristian Rausing were arrested last week after Eva attempted to enter the American embassy in London with rocks of crack cocaine secreted in her handbag – later, illegal drugs worth £2,000 were found in the couple's Knightsbridge home. "I have made a serious mistake which I very much regret," Eva said in a statement.

These days, you don't have to be wealthy to be a crack user – but it helps. It appears that around the dinner tables of the more hedonistic and reckless Chelsea and Holland Park set, they're handing round pipes like their Eighties predecessors did cocaine, their Sixties forebears joints and their Fifties precursors after-dinner mints.

The Priory confirms that crack use is "certainly on the increase" among its well-to-do clients. The treatment agency Addaction reports that it seems to be spreading from inner cities to neighbouring market towns and into more rural areas.

Sue, a 35-year-old mother of two who lives in west London, says that powdered cocaine is no longer fashionable for rich thrill-seekers. "Everybody's doing coke now, it's cheap and the quality can be shit. With crack, you know what you're getting. Your dealer will generally offer you it; it's not like going into some crack den any more, with addicts sitting on the steps shooting up."

She has taken crack about a dozen times, she says, with long intervals in between. "I've only ever taken it socially. It's just like passing around a spliff."

While there's plenty of

anecdotal evidence, it is difficult to find official statistics to prove this trend.

The Home Office's British Crime Survey only records drug-related offences – and crack users in the Rausings' league don't generally need to mug old ladies to pay for their habits. The Department of Health records those in treatment – but posh crackheads don't tend to use the NHS. The National Treatment Agency confirms that, in the past year, the number of crack users in treatment has gone up from 9,132 to 11,167 (from 5 per cent to 6 per cent of all users). But that doesn't necessarily represent those who take the drug once in a while, self-medicate the comedown with cannabis or Valium, and go back to the day job.

The Priory's Richard Renson, however, confirms the trend. "Look back through history at Hogarth's pictures," he says. "Gin was the drug of the lower types, while the rich were smoking themselves stupid on opium. It goes around. Crack cocaine is available now. You can very politely pick up the phone and get your dealer to deliver it by taxi. But anyone who says they can take it once or twice a month and not get addicted – well, I'm impressed."

Barack Obama famously said that the real difference between crack and cocaine was only "the skin colour of the people using them". In this country, however, more and more crack users are white. They live largely in London, tend to be male and are, perhaps, increasingly likely to be your friendly local billionaire.

But according to Renson, this doesn't mean they are safe: "Look at John Belushi, who died doing it." In other words, ignore the Brass Eye character, played by Chris Morris, who explained his class A drug use thus: "Luckily, the amount of heroin I use is harmless, I inject about once a month on a purely recreational basis. Fine. But what about other people less stable, less educated, less middle class than me? Builders or blacks, for example. If you're one of those, my advice is leave well alone. Good luck."