Drug abuse in Britain is now worse than anywhere else in Europe, a devastating analysis showed today.
View attachment 6311 It said that young people in this country are more likely to use cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamine than those in any other country on the continent.
Young Britons are now using cocaine in quantities and with a frequency unmatched anywhere else in the world but the United States, the report found.
One in 20 schoolchildren of 15 and 16 - around 200,000 teenagers - have used the drug, it said.
And the breakdown by the European Union's drug agency pointed to levels of deaths from drugs that are higher here than anywere else in the EU.
Only four small European countries, including Luxembourg and Estonia, lose a higher proportion of their young people in drug-related deaths, the report said.
Deaths linked to drug abuse in Britain are, the figures suggest, running at double the rate of those in Germany and four times those in France.
The report from the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction came as a rebuke to ministers who are trying to paint a rosy picture of declining drug use among young people.
The Government is pointing to the controversial British Crime Survey as its source of evidence of lower drug abuse.
Even the real good news for Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is qualified, the European report showed.
While cannabis use in Britain has been going down, largely because of growing health concerns, young people in this country remain more likely to use the drug than those in any EU country but France and Denmark.
The verdict provoked fresh criticism of the Government's efforts to cut drug abuse from opposition politicians.
Tory Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve said: 'This report confirms Britain's status as the cocaine capital of Europe, not to mention the fact we also have the highest prevalance of amphetemine and ecstasy use amongst adults.
'It is particularly disturbing that we have the highest proportion of fifteen and sixteen year olds using cocaine - the Government's failure is betraying a whole generation of young people.'
Mr Grieve added: 'This is due to Labour's chaotic, confused and stageringly complacent approach to drugs.
'Drugs wreck lives, destroy comunities and fuel crime - the fact Labour do not recognise this make them part of the problem, not the solution.'
The figures from the EU drugs agency showed that 11.9 per cent of British adults aged between 15 and 64 have used ampetamines.
The next highest rate is in Denmark - 6.9 per cent of adults - followed by Norway, 3.6 per cent, and Ireland, 3.5 per cent.
Some 7.3 per cent of Britons have used ecstasy. Rival countries for high ecstasy use are the Czech Republic, 7.1 per cent; Ireland, 5.4 per cent; and Spain, 4.4 per cent.
Miss Smith's advisers on drugs and the law, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, are running an inquiry into whether ecstasy should be downgraded from the most serious legal status of class A.
Committee chief Professor David Nutt has indicated it could even be shifted to class C, the current category for cannabis, where police tend not to arrest users caught in possession of the drug.
The EU agency report said ecstasy use 'remained consistently higher in the UK compared to other countries.'
It suggested that young people who would in the past have used amphetamines are switching in large numbers to cocaine.
The report said that four European countries now have a higher level of cocaine use than Australia, which has internationally high levels. But only Britain 'reports a lifetime prevalence estimate that is similar to that of the USA.'
The five per cent of teenagers and young adults who use cocaine in Britain is now ahead of levels in Spain, where transport, cultural and immigration links to South America have produced a cocaine boom in recent years.
Britain has seen cannabis use decline, the report said. It noted that Britain had highest use of cannabis in the mid-1990s but now ranks third.
It said that evidence suggested 'among those who had stopped using cannabis, 80 per cent cited a lack of interest. Part of the explanation may also be found in the observed reduction in tobacco smoking.'
Links with smoking tobacco and with schizophrenia and other mental illness are also thought to have led to disillusion with cannabis among the young.
They have also help persuade ministers to upgrade cannabis back to the legal class B next year.
However, police chiefs have said they will not instruct officers to return to arresting users, a decision which means the reclassification decision will have no effect.
By Steve Doughty
Last updated at 1:50 AM on 07th November 2008