Number of Drug Users In United Kingdom Jumps To 2.7 Million

By McCarton Ackerman 07/25/14

A new survey has revealed a significant rise in the use of various illicit drugs despite an overall drop in recent years.

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The number of adults using illicit drugs throughout the United Kingdom has jumped nearly 10% in the last year, bringing the total number of drug users in the region to an eye-opening 2.7 million.

Using interviews with 36,000 people for their data, the crime survey figures show that an additional 230,000 residents have begun using illicit substances over the last 12 months. Nearly 80% of the increase, or 180,000 users overall, came from teenagers and young adults aged 16 to 24. This portion of the population makes up 1.1 million of the total number of drug users in the UK.

One million of these adults have used class A drugs over the last 12 months, which include cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy. Mephedrone use also increased slightly during this time. Approximately two million people aged 16 to 59 have consumed cannabis over the past year, but those figures remained relatively stable. And while the use of legal highs was not recorded for this particular survey, it has been documented in other reports that the use of these substances have also sharply increased.

However, these new findings are surprising given that drug use had been declining overall in the last decade throughout the UK, down from a peak of 3.48 million in 2002 and 2003. Drug-related deaths also dropped over the last few years.

“The National Crime Agency and Border Force are involved in targeted operations across the world and at our borders to disrupt organized crime and stop drugs reaching the UK,” said Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister. “We will continue to monitor our response to established drugs and I have commissioned a review to see if we can better tackle the challenge of new psychoactive substances, which will report shortly."

This crime survey also showed that specific demographics were prone to drug use. One-third of gay or bisexual men admitted to using illicit substances in the past year, compared to 23% of gay or bisexual women and 11% of heterosexual men. Adults from Asian backgrounds recorded the lowest levels of drug use.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.