5 WHY AN INCREASE IN USE?
76. In previous chapters we observed a notable increase
in the number of people using cocaine powder, a diversification
of users, and the emergence of cheaper, more adulterated cocaine
powder, its use often combined with other drugs, alcohol in particular.
What has contributed to these changes?
Relative popularity of other
DECREASE IN AMPHETAMINE USE
77. It is important to consider trends in cocaine
use in the context of trends in use of other drugs. The UK Drug
Policy Commission told us that "overall stimulant use has
remained largely stable, with a corresponding drop in the use
of amphetamines and, to a lesser extent, ecstasy that suggests
a move from these drugs to cocaine".
Matthew Atha of the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit agreed:
you need to look at [cocaine use] within a pattern
of overall stimulant use. The majority of people who use cocaine
have also used amphetamine, for instance, and you tend to find
that if they are a stimulant user they will use whichever stimulants
happen to be available at the time.
78. He noted that the effect of disruption of the
amphetamine market in the 1990s, in which the average purity of
amphetamine dropped from about 16% to 4% or 5%, had been that
"regular use of amphetamine halved but regular use of cocaine
doubled", and suggested that "if the purity of cocaine
becomes too poor for the users they will turn to something else,
and we have of course meth amphetamine or crystal meths waiting
in the wings".
Sarah Graham, an ex-addict, agreed, saying that "the influences
within popular culture are moving into other substances. I have
recently written an article for Addiction Today talking about
the emerging crystal meth problem which is starting in the gay
FUTURE DISPLACEMENT OF COCAINE USE
TO OTHER DRUGS
79. Dr Fiona Measham, a member of the ACMD and expert
in changing patterns of drug use amongst young people, considered
that crystal meth use was "not rising at a rapid rate",
but pointed to ketamine as the next big trend in drug use: "that
has taken off quite rapidly in terms of popularity".
Ketamine is primarily used as a horse anaesthetic. Professor Nutt
told us that:
We are seeing a very worrying, persistent increase
in use with some very unpleasant consequences, particularly bladder
spasms, bladder pain and we are worried that there may be some
huge problem with long term bladder dysfunction developing in
these young people.
80. Professor Nutt reported that the ACMD was concerned
about two types of emerging drug with increasing popularity:
One relates to the sedative drug, GBL, and for
butanedione, because of their acute toxicity, particularly if
you take them when you are drunk. Then there are the synthetic
cannabinoids like "Spice".
Dr Measham added a third category: "there is
a trend towards people buying drugs on the Internet which are
currently legal, methcathinones".
81. A recent survey of dance music fans, by MixMag
magazine supported the increase in ketamine use, with 32.4% of
respondents reporting having taken it in the last month (the fifth
most commonly taken drug). The survey also reported a rapid rise
in use of 'legal high' mephadrone, which 33.6% of respondents
had taken in the last month.
82. Some have suggested that cocaine use has been
encouraged by its glamorous image in popular culturethe
regular pictures of celebrities snorting cocaine to be found in
magazines. The UN International Narcotics Control Board criticised
a general 'celebrity cocaine culture' in a report in 2007, which
urged governments to pay more attention to high profile drug abuse
cases. It concluded:
Celebrity drug offenders can profoundly influence
public attitudes, values and behaviour towards drug abuse, particularly
among young people who have not yet taken a firm and fully informed
position on drug issues. Cases involving celebrity drug offenders
can also profoundly affect public perceptions about the fairness
and proportionality of the response of the justice system, especially
if there is a less lenient response to similar or lesser offences
committed by non-celebrities.
83. Despite the association with celebrity and a
certain glamour emanating from that association, our witnesses
did not judge that young people were overly influenced by the
behaviour of celebrities. Harry Shapiro of DrugScope argued:
That is a massive red herring, to be perfectly
honest. I think it is completely ludicrous to start blaming celebrities
whose alleged use of dodgy, fuzzy photos of doing whatever are
only made public because the tabloid press are prepared to put
them on the front page and pay huge amounts of money for doing
so. My take on this would be that it is the media which is glamorising
celebrity drug use, not celebrities. The All Party Drugs Misuse
Group in 2008 heard from a group of young people associated with
Mentor UK, which is a drug education charity and the MPs asked
the young people what they think when they read about Amy Winehouse
or Pete Doherty or any of these people. The general response was
that they felt sorry for them. They appreciate the fact that they
are good singers or good songwriters but they just wish they would
get their act together.
84. Martin Barnes of DrugScope told us that a literature
review by Liverpool John Moores University in 2006 had concluded
that there was no evidence of a causal link between coverage of
celebrity drug use and young people's level of use or even attitudes
The UK Drug Policy Commission agreed: "although cocaine may
have a more 'glamorous' image among young people than other stimulants,
there is little evidence to directly link celebrity drug use or
the publicity surrounding it and the behaviour of young people".
85. Sarah Graham thought that pictures of celebrity
drug users did not on the whole encourage young people to drugs,
but criticised businesses for failing to punish celebrities associated
with them for drug use: "when we have a person who is ostensibly
successful in the public eye who is exposed to drug-taking and
then is apparently rewarded by big business because their celebrity
status has gone up, so the company then cashes in on that status
and gives them a new contract".
86. Dr Brener of The Priorywhich has treated
a number of celebrity addictsconsidered that celebrity
culture did not drive people to take drugs, but that it might
perhaps lead them to use a certain type of drug.
87. What appears more concerning than celebrity use
is the reputation of cocaine-taking as a regular weekend pastime
of middle and upper class professionals at weekend dinner parties,
and the reported acceptance of its use in particular professions,
such as the media industry. Sarah Graham, a former media executive,
told us that:
There is a culture within the media and within
the celebrity world that is very relaxed around the use of cocaine.
It is seen as something that is socially acceptable in certain
areas. It is true of other industries too and it tends to be industries
where people are working very hard, where the work hard/party
harder ethos exists.
88. The Independent Drug Monitoring Unit regularly
surveyed attitudes towards various drugs during the 1990s. Respondents
were asked to give drugs ratings (marks out of ten), with 10 being
the most positive, and 0 the most negative response. Attitudes
towards both cocaine and crack had become generally more positive
in 1999 compared to earlier years, suggesting the drug to have
gained greater social acceptability among drug users.
Table 4: User attitudes towards drugs, 1994-1999 (0=negative;
The IDMU also found in 2003 that, of those surveyed who had not
previously taken cocaine, 5.94% might consider using it in future.
89. Sebastian Saville of Release argued that cocaine use had risen
because it was simply more available:
Take kiwi fruit: in 1970 to find a kiwi fruit was very hard,
a bit like cocaine in 1970, you had to know exactly where to go;
now you can get kiwi fruit anywhere, just like cocaine.
ACPO agreed that "cocaine is readily available at street
Emergence of cheaper cocaine
90. The UK Drug Policy Commission suggested that growth in cocaine
powder "might be partly explained by the creation of a 'two-tier'
cocaine market, with dealers selling a cheaper, less pure product
to a new market of consumers".
John Mann MP, member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug
Misuse and Chair of the 1997 Labour Party Manifesto Review Group
on Drugs and Alcohol, was more certain that price drove use: "you
have a drug here in cocaine where the more it is available the
cheaper it becomes; the cheaper it becomes the more people use
91. Although it is hard to say conclusively what
has driven the increase in number of cocaine users, a corresponding
decrease in amphetamine use and the clear emergence of cheaper,
more heavily adulterated, cocaine at street level seem to be the
most compelling drivers. There is no evidence that celebrity use
has made more people turn to cocaine, indeed our witnesses argued
strongly against it. However, the seeming propensity of celebrity
users to 'get away with' using cocaine does contribute to a general
trend of glamorising use, as does the social acceptability and
normalisation generated by 'successful' people who appear to function
normally, often holding down high-flying careers, whilst using
cocaine. These are doubly dangerous as they contribute to the
misguided reputation of cocaine as a relatively safe and non-addictive
103 Ev 153 Back
Q 106 Back
Q 113 Back
Q 183 Back
Q 314 Back
Q 317 Back
Q 318 Back
Q 319 Back
MixMag magazine, 10 February 2010, pp.45-46 Back
UN International Narcotics Control Board E/INCB/2007/1, Annual
Report 2007, p.11: http://www.incb.org/pdf/annual-report/2007/en/chapter-01.pdf
Q 44 Back
Q 44. See also Ev 153, citing Witty, K. The effects of drug use
by celebrities upon young people's drug use and perception of
use, National Collaborating Centre for Drug Prevention: www.drugpreventionevidence.info/web/Celebrities244.asp
Ev 153 Back
Q 198 Back
Q 283 Back
Q 175 Back
Independent Drug Monitoring Unit website: http://www.idmu.co.uk/cokecrack.htm
Q 67 Back
Ev 95 Back
Ev 153 Back
Q 214 Back