More people using drugs
This year’s (British) Crime Survey found an increase in the proportion of people using illegal drugs. This finding is in the context of a steady drop in levels of drug use over the last 15 years and it’s not clear whether the rise is merely a blip or the start of a new upwards trend.
Based on the usual self-reported data, the Crime Survey is regarded as the most reliable indicator of drug trends. The report does not give the sample size, merely stating that it uses “a sample of the population which is considered large for a government household survey”. It found that:
- Around 1 in 11 (8.8%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken an illicit drug in the last year. However, this proportion more than doubled when looking at the age subgroup of 16 to 24 year-olds (18.9%).
- Levels of last year drug use in 2013/14 were higher than in 2012/13. In 2012/13, 8.1% of 16 to 59 year-olds and 16.2% of 16 to 24 year-olds had taken an illicit drug in the last year.
- Cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and ketamine use increased between 2012/13 and 2013/14. However there were no statistically significant decreases in last year drug use of any individual drug types among 16 to 59 year olds between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
- Interestingly 7.6% of young (16-24) adults had taken nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in the last year.
- Around one-third of adults had taken drugs at some point during their lifetime. Of 16 to 59 year olds, 35.6% had reported ever using drugs.
Who’s using what?
Patterns of use vary markedly across different groups in society with gender, deprivation, age, ethnicity and sexual orientation all having a strong bearing:
- Only 3.1% of adults aged 16-59 were defined as frequent drug users (i.e. those having taken any illicit drug more than once a month on average in the last year). However, levels of frequent use in the last year were higher among men than women, among those who went to pubs or nightclubs more often and among those who lived in more deprived areas.
- Younger people are more likely to take drugs than older people. The level of any drug use in the last year was highest among 16 to 19 year olds (19.3%) and lowest among 55 to 59 year-olds (1.5%).
- Adults from mixed ethnic backgrounds were the most likely to have taken any illicit drug in the last year (17.1%) compared with adults from other ethnic groups. Adults from Asian or Asian British ethnic backgrounds generally had the lowest levels of last year drug use (3.4%).
- Gay or bisexual adults were more likely to have taken any illicit drug in the last year than heterosexual adults. In particular, gay or bisexual men were the group most likely to have taken any illicit drug in the last year (33.0% had taken drugs in the last year), with higher levels of illicit drug use than gay or bisexual women (22.9%), heterosexual men (11.1%) and heterosexual women (5.1%).
It will be interesting to see what results next year’s survey brings, particularly in light of the growing popularity of “legal highs” most of which are, of course, rapidly becoming illegal.
In the meantime, the Home Office have produced a helpful infographic summarising current trends: