One million users make Britain cocaine capital of Europe - UN report

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Britain is the cocaine capital of Europe with more than one million users while one in 20 school children have tried it, according to the United Nations drugs report.

Three per cent of 15 and 16 year-olds even claim to have tried crack cocaine, the report found.Cocaine is shipped here via the Caribbean or - increasingly - the west coast of Africa.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime also found four per cent of youngsters have taken ecstasy and almost three in ten have tried cannabis.

In absolute numbers, the UK is the largest market for cocaine across Europe and has the second highest prevalence rate - 2.3 per cent - behind Spain.

However, the quality of the Class A drug has declined dramatically in recent years, which the UN attributes to a crackdown on traffickers pushing prices up and leading dealers to cut the drug more.

Some seizures by police revealed substances being passed off as cocaine that were only five per cent pure.

The UN found dealers diluting their product with cutting agents such as dental and veterinary anaesthetics that mimic the effects of cocaine but are much cheaper.

The World Drug Report 2009 revealed that cocaine use increased dramatically in the UK from the mid-90s, but remained stable over the last two years.

Dr Sandeep Chawla, lead author of the report, said: "If you take year and on year there seems to be a decline in this market but there is considerable cause for concern as the UK has still in absolute terms the largest numbers in Europe."

The report also found five per cent of 15-16 year-olds in the UK have tried cocaine.

Chris Grayling, Shadow Home Secretary, said: "This is a really depressing snap shot of the drugs problem in the UK and underlines just how ineffective the Government's strategy on dealing with the drug problem has been."

Data given to the UN by the UK's Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) shows wholesale prices have risen to record levels.

The cost of a kilogram of cocaine has increased by 50 per cent from £30,000 to £45,000 since 2007.

There are estimated to be 860,000 cocaine users in England and Wales and around 140,000 in Northern Ireland and Scotland combined.

The report states: "The UK thus continues to be - in absolute numbers - Europe's largest cocaine market, with its second highest cocaine use prevalence rate."

The report revealed a concentration of "problem drug users" in the capital, with around a quarter of all problem users in the UK living in London - a total of 74,000 people. continues here

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