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Soaring fatality rate highlights cocaine dangers

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 Soaring fatality rate highlights cocaine dangers

The number of deaths involving cocaine has increased by a fifth over the past 12 months, according to recent figures.

Official statistics show that there were 235 deaths involving the class A drug in 2008, up from 196 the year before; an increase of 20 per cent. Furthermore, the number of deaths is up by half since 2004.

Around a million people between 16-24 are thought to have taken cocaine in 2008 - a 25 per cent increase in a one year period.

The rise is the steepest amongst people in their 40s as cocaine becomes increasingly socially acceptable and now considered as a safe, middle-class ‘dinner party’ drug amongst this demographic.

The price of the drug has also fallen considerably, with a line of cocaine often costing less than a glass of wine. This has lead to an increase in the number of people initially trying the drug and using it on a regular basis.

Experts have also blamed celebrities for glamorising cocaine use.

Further to this, the official statistics also show that the number of deaths as a result of illegal drugs have hit an eight-year high in England and Wales, with 738 deaths linked to all illegal drugs in 2008, up 8 per cent on the previous year.

Deaths caused by heroin and morphine rose from 829 in 2007 to 897 in 2008, while the figure for cannabis went up from 12 to 19.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of the charity DrugScope, said: “Every drug-related death is a tragedy and many could have been avoided. It is extremely concerning that deaths related to illegal drugs are at their highest since 2001”.

“The steady rise in deaths linked with cocaine use underlines the drug’s harm at a time when use of the drug is again increasing, particularly among 16 to 24-year-olds”.

“The fall in the price of the drug and evidence of its increased availability may be reasons for this increase.”

He added: “The fastest rise in drug-related deaths is among older users and heroin remains the most commonly linked substance”.

“This trend could reflect the fact that the heroin using population is ageing, with fewer younger people using the drug”.

“While it is right to focus on drug use among young people, the need is for public health and overdose prevention interventions across all age groups.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “These are horrifying statistics. The toll of damage from drugs is immense and the cost to the NHS is enormous.

“The Government’s punitive policies and heavy-handed rhetoric on drugs are failing”.

“They must urgently rethink their strategy before even more lives are lost.”

The Home Office have insisted it was determined to tackle the problem.

A spokesman said: “No death is acceptable and that is why we have significantly increased investment in treatment programmes and support for those who are drug dependent or at risk of self harm.”

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