UK tops cocaine use table

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The Independent Online

The UK tops the European league table of cocaine use, a report showed today.







Almost one in 10 Britons (9.4%) aged 15-64 have taken cocaine at some point in their lives, rising to more than one in seven (14.9% for the 15-34 age group, the European drugs agency said.



The figures come ahead of the publication of the Government's new drugs strategy next month, which will have a renewed focus on tackling cocaine use.



The annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) showed Spain was second, with 8.3% of those aged 15-64 having taken cocaine and 14.9% of those aged 15-34, while Ireland came fourth with 5.3% and 8.2% respectively.



In both the UK and Spain, "the use of the drug increased dramatically in the late 1990s, before moving to a more stable, though generally upward, trend", the report said.



And prevalence among young adults aged 15-34 increased by about 50% since 2003.



Cocaine remains the second most used illicit drug in Europe, after cannabis.



About 14 million Europeans have used it at least once in their life, while 12 million have used amphetamines and 11 million have used ecstasy.



But cannabis has been tried by at least 75.5 million Europeans, almost one in four citizens, the report said.



In the UK 31.1% of the 15-64 age group say they have used cannabis, exceeded only by Denmark (38.6%), the Czech Republic (34.2%) and Italy (32.0%).



Among 15-34 year-olds the rate is higher - 40.5% in the UK compared with 53.3% in the Czech Republic, 48% in Denmark and 43.6% in France.



Crime Prevention Minister James Brokenshire said: "Drugs destroy lives and damage our communities and this report makes clear more needs to be done to tackle the problem.



"I am concerned about the high levels of drug abuse and deaths in this country, particularly from cocaine."



He went on: "We will enhance border security and target the drugs barons through a new National Crime Agency which will include a dedicated Border Police Command.



"A temporary banning system, due next year, will also strengthen our response to emerging drugs. Our new approach to treatment will be results driven and set out in a new cross-government Drug Strategy published next month."