While the world of drug use may be a mystery to many of us, this recent survey by the Crime Survey for England and Wales gives us some insight into the demographics and more.
The information sourced from the survey includes people between the ages of 16 to 59 and is comparable to data from 1996 where questions on the survey were similar. None of the statistics include the homeless and prisoners where the potential for drug abuse could be higher.
Generally speaking, drug use as a whole has decreased since the survey began in 1996, however; the use of powder cocaine is increasing. The number of adults who used powder cocaine in the last year stands at 1.9%, making it the second most widely used illicit drug in England and Wales. The perception of the safety of powder cocaine is much higher however; with 7% of people saying is it acceptable to take the drug occasionally.
This represents a change in drug trends where amphetamines used to be second. Cannabis and ecstasy remain in first and third place respectively.
While 1 in 12 (8.2%) of those surveyed had taken an illegal drug in the past year, 6.4% had taken cannabis, making it the clear drug of choice for most users. This is not surprising when 32% of people thought it is acceptable to take cannabis occasionally and 19% of people who used it within the last year would describe cannabis as ‘very safe’.
Many of us will associate the word ‘drug’ with the word ‘illegal’, however; there are many new substances emerging on the market known as legal highs. It would seem that with their recent appearance and ease of availability on the internet, it is no surprise that legal highs are much more popular with younger adults. Many new products are being marketed as ‘Not for human consumption’ and for ‘Research use only’ to get around drug legislation. Here are just two examples:
2.0% of 16 – 59 year olds had taken nitrous oxide in the last year.
6.1% of 16 – 24 year olds had taken nitrous oxide in the last year.
0.3% of 16 – 59 year olds had taken salvia in the last year.
1.1% of 16 – 24 year olds had taken salvia in the last year.
This example shows that the use of legal highs is around three times as common in younger adults. With many of these new substances’ long term effects being unknown, and the fact that their legal status varies from county to county, legal highs remain a controversial issue.
While the study shows not only that younger adults are more likely to engage in both illicit and legal substance use, it also shows that males are generally twice as likely as females to take them. This brings to mind many questions as to why this is. It is particularly prevalent among frequent users (Use of the same drug more than once a month on average during the last year).
Similarly, another interesting statistic shows that the more times a month a person visits a nightclub/wine bar, the more likely they are to engage in illegal drug use. Surprising this this doesn’t correlate with where people obtain their drugs from, with just 11% of people obtaining their drugs from these places. The survey shows that the vast majority of drugs are obtained and/or used in either their own or a friends house.
Over the whole survey, the most dangerous drug was deemed to be heroin, with 99% of people agreeing that taking heroin is ‘very unsafe’. Whether this is due to risks involving injection (gangrene, collapsed veins, HIV/AIDS) or depression of the respiratory/central nervous system is unclear. In contrast to this statistic, the results involving cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine were much more varied. One statistic that stood out was while only 1% of people described the use of either alcohol or ecstasy as very safe, use of cannabis was described as very safe by 3% of people. Generally speaking, the survey also found that people who had never taken any drugs are much more likely to consider them unsafe.
I’ll leave you with one final statistic. With 35.9% of people having taken an illicit drug in their lifetime, I think drug misuse will continue to be a controversial subject for some time.