Britons second-biggest users of cocaine globally behind Australia, data reveals

A study has found Britons are the second biggest cocaine users in the world behind Australia. (PA Archive)
A study has found Britons are the second biggest cocaine users in the world behind Australia. (PA Archive)

British people have become the second-biggest cocaine users in the world, an international study has found.

The UK is the cocaine hotspot of Europe and second only to Australia internationally, with as many as one in 40 adults in Britain taking the class A drug.

Experts have said that getting hold of the drug is “as easy as ordering a pizza” and that a night’s supply can be bought for as little as £10.

The high drug use is fueled by a culture of heavy drinking, the Times has reported.

A global league table of cocaine use has been put together using the latest data from 36 countries by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The study found 2.7 per cent of adults in the UK use cocaine each year, with men twice as likely to be users than women.

The international average for the drug is 1.2 per cent while 4.2 per cent of adults in Australia use cocaine.

Addiction specialists have called on the government to launch a public health campaign warning of the dangers of the drug to try and stop an “epidemic of cocaine use”.

They have called for adverts in pub toilets and at football stadiums to warn of the risk of heart attacks and paranoia.

Office for National Statistics data shows 857 people in England and Wales died due to cocaine in 2022, up from 112 deaths in 2011. Eight in ten of those who died were men.

Cocaine use is highest among 16 to 24-year-olds, with 5.1 per cent of the age group using the drug in 2022.

Ian Hamilton, an associate professor of addiction at the University of York, told the Times cocaine was “better value and more available than it’s ever been”, and that British drinking culture was fueling high cocaine use.

Mr Hamilton warned that cocaine “is far more potent than it’s ever been. For a naive user, that can lead to a risk of overdose.

“The purity of cocaine has increased in recent years, partly due to a crackdown on the importation of powders used as ‘cutting agents’ to dilute the drug.

“A public health campaign could target areas you know cocaine use is happening. You could see adverts in pub toilets, nightclubs, wine bars, and sports grounds and football stadiums.”

Heavy cocaine users can end up in A&E with heart arrhythmia and can also develop depression, anxiety, paranoia and psychosis.

The Home Office said: “Our ten-year drug strategy, backed by a record £3 billion of investment, is tackling the supply of illicit drugs while building a world-class system of treatment for those who abuse drugs to help turn their life around.

“This is a whole-of-government strategy and we are committed to supporting people who suffer from the clutches of addiction and the vulnerable people who are exploited by gangs to fuel their violent trade.”