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Friday, June 26, 2009

UK 'cocaine capital of Europe'

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UK 'cocaine capital of Europe'

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the UK is Europe's largest cocaine market - with more than one million regular users.

But its report revealed the quality of the Class A drug has declined dramatically in recent years.

A crackdown on traffickers has pushed prices up and led to dealers cutting even more.

Some seizures by police revealed substances being passed off as cocaine that were only 5 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.

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.

That means around one person in 100 in the capital has a drug problem.

The report also details the supply routes that bring drugs to the UK.

Cocaine is shipped here via the Caribbean or - increasingly - the west coast of Africa.

Heroin comes from Afghanistan on land routes through the Middle East to Europe before it is re-packaged and smuggled in to Britain.