Drugs: The State of the Nation (April 2017)

The latest United Kingdom Drug Situation report reveals an increase in the purity of heroin and cocaine and that only 5% of cannabis is now resin.

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The United Kingdom Drug situation

Last week (7 April 2017) Public Health England (in partnership with the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Scottish and Welsh Governments) published the United Kingdom Drug Situation 2016.

The report is in the same format produced by all European countries who are members of the European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).

The document is a detailed (180 page) report on the latest patterns in drug use, developments in drug policy, prevention and treatment . It also includes chapters on drug use in prison, drug-related deaths and drug markets.

Below are just 10 facts that I found of interest.

1: Overall drug prevalence in the general population is lower now than ten years ago, with cannabis being the main driver of that reduction. However, there has been little change in recent years.

2: Cannabis (6.5% of the population used in the last year), powder cocaine (2.2%) and ecstasy/MDMA (1.5%) are the most commonly used drugs.

3: Herbal cannabis has come to dominate the market. While resin was involved in around two-thirds of cannabis seizures in 2000, it was involved in only five per cent in 2015/16.

4: The number of MDMA-associated deaths in England and Wales rose to 57 cases, returning to levels seen prior to the decrease in availability of MDMA in the late 2000s.

5: There were 124,234 treatment presentations in the UK in 2015 (including those in prison for the first time.)

6: Treatment data from prisons showed that 27,836 individuals presented to treatment services in English prisons in 2015, with heroin the most common primary substance.

7: The numbers of recorded incidents of possession and supply offences across the UK, and arrests for drug offences in England and Wales, have fallen in 2015/16, continuing the trends seen over the past five years. In 2015/16, 31,342 supply/trafficking offences and 157,271 possession offences were recorded in the UK.

8: Heroin purity has continued to rise since the low level seen in the early 2010s, and in 2015 was 44%, more than twice the purity seen in 2011 and 2012 when it reached its nadir. Similarly, cocaine purity, which was at its lowest in 2010, has risen since that time, and in 2015 was also 44%.

9: Prevalence of HIV among people who inject drugs in 2015 was one per cent (a similar level to recent years). HIV prevalence among ‘recent initiates’ to injecting substantially increased in 2015 to 2.6%, the highest level seen in the last ten years which is probably related to an increase in prevalence among men who have sex with men.

10: National Take-Home Naloxone programmes continue to supply naloxone to those exiting prison in Scotland and Wales: there were 932 kits issued by NHS staff in prisons in Scotland, and 146 in Wales, in 2015/16.



Blog posts in the drug and alcohol category are kindly sponsored by Breaking Free Group which has developed a powerful and adaptable digital health platform which targets the underlying psychological and lifestyle factors that drive addictive behaviours. Breaking Free has no editorial influence on the contents of this site.

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