Following on from the recent release of a European drugs report...
UK is 'European cocaine capital'
Cocaine is linked to up to a fifth of drug deaths in some countries
More cocaine is taken in the UK than in almost every other European Union (EU) country, a study has found.
Almost 5% of young people in England and Wales have tried the drug in the last year, while use among all adults has almost tripled in the past decade.
Use is up more than four-fold for 15 to 24-year-olds in the last 12 years.
The European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drugs Addiction (EMCDDA) study found cocaine was now Europe's second most popular drug after cannabis.
Use of cannabis has reached a stable level but ecstasy use has fallen, according to the research. The State of the Drugs Problem in Europe study looked at drug problems in the 25 EU countries, plus Norway, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey.
There were 54,117 drug-related deaths in the UK between 1985 and 2004, hitting a one-year peak of 3,517 in 2000.
Cocaine was associated with up to 20% of drug deaths in the UK, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
About 10 million Europeans have used cocaine at some time and about 3.5 million are likely to have used it in the last year, according to EMCDDA estimates.
Those who had taken the drug in the past month amounted to about 1.5 million.
Second to the UK for cocaine use among 15 to 24-year-olds was Spain, with 4.8% trying the drug in the last year.
Spanish tourist resorts accounted for the country's highest drug use.
We cannot fail to be concerned that across Europe drugs are becoming cheaper in real terms
The report identified falling street prices as a contributory factor to rising drug use.
An increase in production in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taleban is blamed for a big decrease in the price of heroin.
EMCDDA chairman Marcel Reimen said: "Price is just one of many factors influencing people's decision to take drugs, and at present we see no simple relationship between general consumption levels and the price of drugs on the street.
"Nonetheless we cannot fail to be concerned that across Europe drugs are becoming cheaper in real terms.
"If this means that those who have a tendency to consume drugs will use them more then the ultimate cost of drug-taking in terms of healthcare and damage to our communities is likely to be considerable."
The Home Office said the report showed drug misuse was stable in the UK at a time when rates were rising across the rest of Europe.
"We are committed to tackling drug use through education, enforcement and treatment," said government minister with responsibility for policing, security and community safety, Vernon Coaker.
"Our strategy is effective. Record sums invested in tackling drugs have helped to cut acquisitive crime, which is largely drug related, by 16% in the last two years."
He said more than 10 tonnes of cocaine was seized and 181,000 people entered drug treatment last year. Victoria Manning, research fellow for charity Action on Addiction, said the findings were "extremely worrying". "We are very concerned about the continuing high levels of cocaine use, particularly among young adults," she said.
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