Source: Guardian
Date: 25 November 2004

UK 'has highest cocaine use in Europe'

Simon Jeffery

picture of cocaine

Britain and Spain have the highest proportion of cocaine users in the EU, according to a pan-European drugs survey published today.

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2004 report found 2% of all adults in the UK and Spain reported recent cocaine use, close to figures for the US, compared to less than 1% across the EU as a whole.

It reported that cocaine use was increasing in Denmark and Germany and that more Europeans were seeking treatment for cocaine-related problems. In most countries, treatment is demanded for the use of cocaine powder rather than smoked crack cocaine - but in the Netherlands around two-thirds of cocaine treatment demands were crack related.

Crack use was increasing in a number of cities in Germany, Spain, France and the UK, the survey found.

Heroin use is relatively stable in many EU countries, with new users falling, but limited data from the new member states in central and eastern Europe may mask localised increases.

Deep concern surrounds the continuing HIV epidemic in some of the new EU member states and their bordering countries, where heroin injecting is more common than it is the western states. Estonia, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine are the countries with the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, though there are signs it is stabilising in the Baltic states.

The director of the EU drugs agency, Georges Estievenart, identified positive signs in the downwards trend of drug-related deaths and better access to treatment and care but warned of future problems.

"There is a risk that some of these positive trends may be short-lived and real concerns surround potential drug epidemics, particularly in some of the new members of our Union.

"And we should not forget that drug use in general remains at historically high levels - many countries are reporting rising cocaine use and more people are using cannabis and ecstasy in parts of Europe."

The Home Office minister, Caroline Flint, said the report was based on old data and the British Crime Survey showed that crack and cocaine use had stabilised.

"We are not complacent about the drugs situation in Britain," she said. "Drug use is still too high and we are planning new legislation aimed at getting more users into treatment - including testing on arrest - and strengthening police powers to tackle drug dealers."

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