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Crack cocaine use on rise in UK


The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime released their Global Report on Cocaine this month, and highlighted that the use of crack cocaine in the UK is rapidly increasing, while cocaine production has sped to a record high as demand continues to increase.

The cultivation of coca rose by 35% alone between 2020 and 2021. UK’s uptake is in line with Europe’s trend, as Belgium, France, and Spain also experienced an increase. This follows an abrupt increase in the use of postal services to facilitate wider drug trafficking, likely triggered initially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, they note that law enforcement have grown increasingly adept at intercepting organised crime methodologies and thus, they believe law enforcement are actually obstructing trafficking quicker than the rate of production. This means they are actively containing the growth of the global amount available for consumption, so these figures could have been higher and may not reflect the severity of the problem.

The report reads: “The use of ‘crack’ cocaine is on an upward trend in several Western European countries, according to data on people seeking treatment for the first time. While the use of crack has been well documented in the United Kingdom, countries in continental Europe also appear to show an increased incidence. Belgium, France and Spain each registered abrupt rises in crack users entering treatment starting in 2017 or 2018. Italy also showed a slow but steady increase.”

Crack cocaine use rise in uk

This report comes as the United Kingdom has endured a decade-long rise in the plethora of county lines drug dealing, where localised gangs and established organised crime groups use mainly children and vulnerable adults to transport drugs across local authority, city, and police boundaries.

An example is the recent conviction of Xavion Benson under the Modern Slavery Act.

The report places county lines drug dealing as the driver of violence at the lower end of the supply chain. As crack cocaine use has risen, the breadth of gangs and OCGs has multiplied, leading to a greater amount of illegal firearm and bladed weapon use, sexual violence, and robbery amongst players in these drug distribution networks.

In 2016-2017, the rise of such gang and OCG activity led to the widespread creative use of acid and ammonia to establish and maintain drug distribution areas, punishment of gang members and their families, enforcement of drug-related debts, and intimidation of individuals into slave labour. It also led to a rise in isolated ‘copycat’ incidents by people not in the drug world who had grievances they wished to illegally resolve.

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