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Cocaine and ecstasy use soars in richer households

Published 28/07/2016

Mock-up picture of cocaine stash
Mock-up picture of cocaine stash

Cocaine and ecstasy use has jumped among people from wealthier households in England and Wales, new figures indicate.

In 2015/16, one in 33 (3%) of those aged from 16 to 59 from households with an income of £50,000 or more reported taking powder cocaine in the previous year. This compared to 2.2% in 2014/15.

And one in 45 (2.2%) people in the category had used ecstasy in the preceding 12 months - up from 1.5%.

Both were "statistically significant" increases and the largest percentages for use of the substances in the bracket since 2008/09.

Proportions were broken down by five household income levels ranging from under £10,000 to at least £50,000.

By contrast to the top category, use of ecstasy and powder cocaine among those from lower-income households were either down or flat year-on-year.

A Home Office report outlining the data said demographic factors are "not necessarily independently associated with higher drug use".

Meanwhile, it emerged that drug use among women has plunged to the lowest level in at least 20 years.

The statistics - based on responses in the Crime Survey for England and Wales - showed one in 20 women reported using any illicit substance in the previous year in 2015/16.

Overall, the figures showed that around one in 12 adults (8.4%) had taken an illicit drug in the previous year - equal to around 2.7 million people.

This was similar to the 2014/15 survey, but lower than a decade ago, when the proportion stood at around one in 10.

Around one in five (18%) young adults, aged 16 to 25, had taken an illicit drug in the last year, equivalent to around 1.1 million people.

This was similar to the previous year, but down compared to 10 years ago, when the proportion was 25.2%.

The figures also showed that more than a third (38%) of adults thought it would be very or fairly easy for them personally to get drugs within 24 hours if they wanted them.

Separate figures released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that there were 14,279 hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs in 2014/15. This was 57% higher than the level recorded 10 years earlier.

In 2014 there were 2,248 deaths related to drug misuse, an increase of 15% on the previous year.

Simon Antrobus, chief executive of Addaction, said the charity is "deeply concerned with the continuing upward trend in drug-related deaths".

He added: "Also of interest are the figures showing rising cocaine and ecstasy use in adults in households with £50,000 income a year or more, reflecting higher purity, wider availability and a cultural shift which has increasingly normalised those substances."

The Home Office said that overall, drug use among those with a household income of £50,000 or more has fallen from 14.4% in 1998 to 8.2% in 2015/16.

It added that the Government is developing a new drugs strategy to address drug misuse across all demographics.

Home Office minister Sarah Newton said: "The Government is taking action to prevent the harms caused by drug use - from educating young people about the risks to helping dependent individuals through treatment, and supporting law enforcement in tackling the illicit trade.

"We have seen a reduction in drug misuse among adults and young people compared with a decade ago and more people are recovering from their dependency now than in 2009/10."

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