Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that in 2008 cocaine-related deaths in the U.K. rose by 20 per cent.
With drug-related deaths amongst females rising by 17 per cent and the total number of deaths associated with any type of illegal drug at their highest level for eight years the U.K. government is facing accusations that its policies related to the use of drugs were failing.
Whilst, as Metro reports, alcohol remains a bigger killer than drugs, 9,000 deaths during 2008 were linked to alcohol in some way, the latest statistics will surely be seen by many as "horrifying", to use the description applied to them by the Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb.
The total number of deaths from drug poisoning during 2008 was 2,2928, an eleven per cent increase on 2007. According to the Independent that figure takes in to account accidents, suicides, drug abuse and drug dependence.
Heroin and morphine were responsible for 897 deaths, with cannabis-related deaths also increasing greatly in percentage terms, although the drug was still the cause of death in only 19 instances, compared to 12 during 2007.
But it seems to be the lives lost to cocaine that are grabbing the headlines, with the 2008 figure of 235 an increase of one fifth on the previous year's figure of 196. Furthermore cocaine-related deaths have increased by 50 per cent since 2004.
Greater availability is considered to be one important factor in the growing use of cocaine, approaching a million people used the drug last year in the U.K. and the 16-24 age group had 439,000 users, but the seemingly ever-decreasing price of the drug is also being blamed for the worrying statistics, with Metro reporting that in some instances a line of cocaine can be purchased for just £1 ($1.60).
Martin Barnes of DrugScope, a drug information service, explained that some overdoses were possible when users, accustomed to weaker forms of cocaine, suddenly took a purer form of the drug and did not realize that they need not take so much of it.
Commenting on the newly released statistics Elliott Elam, who works for the charity Addaction, noted:A lot of people who take cocaine will be drinking as well. When it’s taken with alcohol, it forms a compound in the stomach which is hugely poisonous and can be deadly, causing heart attacks and all sorts of other problems which most people aren’t aware of
Looking at the individual countries within the U.K., the University of London has found that Scotland fares particularly badly when it comes to the number of deaths that occurred in the country involving drugs. An increase from 2007 of over 33 per cent resulted in an unenviable new record of 478 lives lost during the course of one year.