Cocaine and ecstasy increase helps push Class A drug use to new high, says survey

19 September 2019, 13:41 | Updated: 19 September 2019, 17:05

The use of Class A drugs across the UK is at an all time high, according to new Home Office figures.

Findings from the Crime Survey of England and Wales show 3.7% of 16 to 59-year-olds reported taking Class A drugs in 2018/19, up from 3.5% from the year before.

It is the highest rate since records began in 1996 and equates to around 1.3 million people.

The Home Office said there was an "upward trend apparent in the use of Class A drugs, particularly among 16 to 25-year-olds".

It said this was mainly driven by an increase in the use of powder cocaine and ecstasy.

Class A drugs include cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, LSD, crystal meth and magic mushrooms.

Swansea in South Wales is a city that's been devastated by a drugs epidemic. Discarded needles in dark corners of the city tell their own story, and the latest figures are no surprise.

At the city's needle exchange, drugs worker Jamie Harris said reform of the drugs laws is desperately needed.

"The lack of discussion in Westminster and parliament is not helping the situation," he said.

"We are seeing poverty increasing (and) we are seeing the prevalence of poverty increasing. Drug use is escalating.

"My personal opinion is that I would decriminalise it and make it a health issue and replicate the model we see in Portugal."

There is no simple answer as to why more people are using class As, but the Home office figures are worrying as they are an indicator of the general health of society.

Ryan McCormack is a recovering addict and now works as a counsellor at an addiction drop in centre and kitchen.

He says the criminalisation model is broken and it is easier to get hold of drugs than ever before.

"I wouldn't wish it on anyone, it's a devastating illness and in my case I did become physically dependent on drugs," he said.

"Accessibility to drugs is different nowadays, so for instance you can have people selling drugs on Instagram."

A government spokesperson said: "While overall levels of drug misuse are similar to a decade ago, the government is concerned about the upward trend in more recent years - particularly class A use.

"We are committed to reducing the use of drugs and the harms they cause and the Home Office has commissioned a major independent review to examine these issues."