New Report Reveals Who's Behind the UK's Huge Cocaine Usage

A new Home Office report details the extent and complexities of the UK's drug trade.
27 February 2020, 12:06pm
spliff and cocaine
Photo by Emily Bowler.

Another day, another government report detailing exactly how much the UK loves getting on it.

An independent review released on Thursday morning, spearheaded by Professor Dame Carol Black, details the value of the UK drug trade, the extent of drug use in the UK, the rise of drug deaths and the increase of young people's involvement in the drug trade through county lines gangs.

According to the report – which is the first phase of a review into drugs misuse – the drug trade is worth around £9.4 billion a year. In England and Wales, around 3 million people took drugs in 2019, while drug deaths have reached an all-time high. Most drugs taken in the UK are produced abroad, fuelled by organised crime and aided by the rise in technology. Alarmingly, the county lines drug trade has also increased, putting young people and children in the front line of the illegal drug industry.

Here are some of the report's main findings:


The report notes that increased use of coke has been driven by those under 30 – mainly white men. The boom in international production has increased the purity and availability of the drug, and the demand for it is largely linked to nightlife. Although there has been a sharp rise in the rate of cocaine use over the last five years, the rate of use in London has fallen slightly.


According to the report, most weed users are under 30 – and usage has increased among people in their twenties.


It's hard to estimate the value of ecstasy and amphetamines, but the report puts the total revenue of both drugs in the UK at around £40 million a year. Young people are still the largest users of this drug, and the rate of use has stayed relatively the same over the last five years. Most of these drugs are produced in Belgium and the Netherlands.


The government report details the rise of young people being drawn into the county lines drug trade, noting that teenagers and children get involved for a variety of reasons. Some are attracted to the allure of money, underestimating the violence of the trade, while others are groomed and exploited "against a backdrop of poverty". It claims that social media has played a large role.


The report states that the government's ability to police the drugs market has been strongly affected by cuts to services, which has damaged expertise in the area. However, the report notes that even if organisations like the police and National Crime Agency hadn't faced budget constraints, it's still not clear that they would have been able to reduce the drug supply, considering how flexible the illegal drug market is.