Cocaine and ecstasy driving increase in class A use

Around 1.1m adults took a class A drug in the last year, according to the latest Home Office figures, 3 per cent up on a decade ago. Class A use among 16 to 24-year-olds, meanwhile, has increased from 6.2 per cent to 8.4 per cent since 2011-12, says Drug misuse: findings from the 2017-18 crime survey for England and Wales, ‘mainly driven by an increase in powder cocaine and ecstasy use’.

Ecstasy use among young people has increased

Around 875,000 people had used powder cocaine in the previous year, more than 360,000 of them in the 16-24 age range. There has been a ‘statistically significant increase in powder cocaine use’ for both young people and all adults since 2011-12, says the report, with usage rates increasing from 2.1 to 2.6 per cent among 16 to 59-year-olds and 4.1 to 6 per cent among 16-24 year olds. Ecstasy use among young people has also increased from 3.3 per cent to 5.1 per cent over the same period, while use of LSD, ketamine, magic mushrooms and non-prescribed tranquilisers was also up across all adults.Around 9 per cent of 16 to 59-year-olds had taken any drug in the previous year – approximately 3m people – a figure largely unchanged for a decade, while the proportion rose to almost 20 per cent for 16 to 24-year-olds. Cannabis remains the most commonly used substance, with 7.2 per cent of adults having used it in the last year, with cocaine the second most commonly used drug.

There has been a ‘statistically significant increase in powder cocaine use’

Only around 2 per cent of adults were classed as ‘frequent’ drug users, however – defined as using an illicit substance more than once a month on average – rising to 4 per cent for 16 to 24-year-olds.

Meanwhile, the home secretary has announced that clinicians will be able to legally prescribe cannabis-based medicines ‘by the autumn’ following a two-part review commissioned in June (DDN, July/August, page 4). The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will now develop a ‘clear definition’ of what constitutes a ‘cannabis-derived medicinal product’, says the government. ‘Other forms of cannabis will be kept under strict controls and will not be available on prescription,’ it states.

‘Recent cases involving sick children made it clear to me that our position on cannabis-related medicinal products was not satisfactory,’ said the home secretary, Sajid Javid. ‘That is why we launched a review and set up an expert panel to advise on licence applications in exceptional circumstances. Following advice from two sets of independent advisers, I have taken the decision to reschedule cannabis-derived medicinal products – meaning they will be available on prescription. This will help patients with an exceptional clinical need, but is in no way a first step to the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use.’

Crime survey statistics here

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