Britain snorts more of the drug than almost anywhere in Europe, more young people are taking it and deaths are rising.
T he moment Dan not his real name realised he had a problem with cocaine, he had been off work for a week, sick with flu. His phone buzzed.
It was his cocaine dealer, calling to check he was OK. Lines in the pub on a Friday night after work. Lines at house parties, weddings, birthday parties and for no reason at all, other than that cocaine — the white powder that makes no one a better version of themselves, but that many of us continue to do anyway — is everywhere and freely available.
'my sister died after taking a line of cocaine'
Britain is a cocaine-loving country, and its love for the drug is growing. The country snorts more cocaine than almost anywhere in Europe. In the UK in2. It is also likely that Home Office figures, which often exclude students, prisoners and homeless people, underestimate cocaine use because those groups typically have above-average illegal drug use.
Levels are highest at weekends, indicating recreational use. Cocaine used to be the sole preserve of affluent City workers and dissolute rock stars. They continue to favour the drug: data from the crime survey of England and Wales showed that powdered cocaine use increased from 2. But powdered cocaine now appeals to those in more modest income brackets, too.
Users come from all backgrounds.
Do you have a problem with cocaine? here’s a big warning
Ironically, anti-drug laws have also improved the quality of cocaine. The Serious Crime Act criminalised the import of cutting agents such as benzocaine. When it is harder to cut the product, purity increases. This, along with the fact that cocaine production has increased in Latin America, has created a perfect powder storm.
Cocaine purity, which has been increasing sinceis at its highest level in a decade.
What happens when a product becomes cheaper, more plentiful and better quality? More people try it.
As purity and availability increase, so, too, does the misery wreaked by cocaine. Hospital admissions for mental health disorders linked to cocaine have almost trebled in the past decade. Cocaine-related deaths have increased for the sixth year running, up to deaths in England and Wales incompared with in Many of these deaths will involve users who have longstanding addictions to crack cocaine, as well as other co-dependencies.
Users leap from balconies, or fall from mountain paths while under the effects of the drug. Or their bodies give out on them: many deaths take place when users mix cocaine with alcohol, producing the toxic chemical cocaethylene. And it is not just your heart you should be worried about: cocaine abuse can cause the soft inner cartilage of your nose to erode, and it has been linked to brain abnormalities in regular users.
Cocaine - just one line
Lucy White, a student at the University of the West of England, knew the dangers of messing with drugs: she saw year-old Drake Morgan-Baines collapse and die in front of her, of MDMA ecstasy poisoning, while she was working in Motion nightclub in Bristol. But just seven months later, White herself died of a lethal cocktail of cocaine and prescription drugs.
Cocaine use creates subtler forms of misery, too. What the fuck am I doing? Dan thinks Britons love cocaine because we work so hard on average, we work the longest hours in Europe.
The story of one of the most memorable marketing blunders ever
At a time of welfare cuts and ever-longer NHS mental health waiting listscocaine also seems to offer a quick fix for those struggling with stress or anxiety. But austerity has created a real bottleneck in people getting the support they need, and drugs are far more instant. They have no opening and closing hours. Recently, I was in the sort of pub you bring your parents to: an upmarket affair with chalkboard menus.
I went to the bathroom and there, dusted across the toilet-roll holder like icing sugar on a Victoria sponge, was a fine but unmistakable layer of cocaine. Did he accept? He drops his voice. As these places shutter, British people increasingly socialise behind closed doors. Unlike the club drug ecstasy, cocaine is best taken at home. The most shocking place Quinton found cocaine?
A toilet that was only accessible to NHS staff. As well as becoming extremely proficient at wiping down lavatories, Quinton learned one thing. It angers her.
The street price of a gram of cocaine
Recent months have seen attempts to challenge the laissez-faire attitudes. Days later, the Metropolitan police commissioner, Cressida Dick, denounced hypocritical middle-class users who profess to be politically aware. In October, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, told the Daily Mail that a government review would specifically look at the damage occasioned by middle-class drug users.
Where did this sudden cross-party consensus on the evils of middle-class drug originate?
One man: Simon Kempton. He singled out middle-class drug users for fuelling street violence. A media storm ensued, but after Dick, Khan and Javid echoed his stance, Kempton felt vindicated. But does middle-class cocaine use really cause knife crime?
Sincethe coalition and Conservative governments have consistently attempted to link gangs and youth violence to drugs. But while street-level violence may be seen in the dealing of crack cocaine across so called county lines, powdered cocaine has a different supply chain. If the evidence is shaky, why are politicians so keen to connect these dots?
Has Scott ever seen any evidence of cocaine dealing in the communities he works with?
Whether or not you agree that cocaine causes knife crime on our streets, one thing is for certain: cocaine causes damage. Maybe the damage takes place in a faraway country you prefer not to think about. Dan has pulled himself out of the depths of his cocaine addiction gingerly. Sometimes, he slides downhill.
The white stuff: why britain can’t get enough cocaine
After we finish our interview, we step out of the pub into the frigid night air. We look at each other, and Dan sighs. The charity Change Grow Live changegrowlive. Sirin Kale. Wed 30 Jan . Reuse this content.