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Rise in seizures of cocaine and ketamine
Latest drug seizure figures see rises in amounts of cocaine and ketamine.

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Drug seizures

Last week (20 April 2023) the Home Office published statistics on the drug seizures made by the police and Border Force in the financial year 2021/22. While the total number of seizures were down 14% on the previous year the quantities of cocaine, cannabis & ketamine seized all rose considerably.

Headline findings

Police forces and Border Force made a total of 188,929 drug seizures in England and Wales in year ending March 2022, a 14% decrease compared with the previous year (219,578) but the second-highest number since the year ending March 2014. Similar to previous years, police forces accounted for the majority (89%) of the number of seizures compared to Border Force (11%) while Border Force seizures made up a small proportion of the total number of individual seizures, they generally comprised of much larger quantities, for example accounting for 97% of anabolic steroids, 91% of cocaine, 91% of ketamine and 79% of heroin seized.

The number of seizures declined for most individual drug types compared with the previous year, with the notable exception of cocaine which increased by 5%.

The figures for specific drugs were:

  • Cocaine: the quantity of cocaine seizures by police forces and Border Force increased by 68%, from 11,141kg in the year ending March 2021 to 18,767kg in the latest year, making it the highest recorded quantity of cocaine seized on record. This was driven by an increase in the number of seizures weighing 100kg or more by Border Force
  • Heroin: the quantity of heroin decreased by 28% from 1,972kg seized in the previous year to 1,412kg, driven by a 38% reduction in the quantity seized by Border Force despite police forces seeing an 84% increase. However, this is the third-highest quantity of heroin seized since the year ending March 2012
  • Cannabis: the quantity of herbal cannabis seized in the year ending March 2022 increased by 107% from the previous year to 35,436kg, the highest recorded quantity since 1994, when it was 56,440kg
  • Ketamine: the quantity of ketamine seized by police forces and Border Force increased by 884%, from 187kg in year ending March 2021 to 1,837kg in the latest year. This was driven by an increase in the number of seizures over 10kg by Border Force.
  • Crack: 43kg of crack was seized overall in the year ending March 2022, 8% less than the 47kg seized in the previous year. 62% of these seizures weighed under 1g and 38% weighed from 1g to <500g.

New Psychoactive Substances

In the year ending March 2022 there were 3,054 seizures of New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) by police forces and Border Force – see the graphic above. This represents, a 26% decrease from the previous year (4,108). Of NPS seizures, synthetic cannabinoids were the most common, involved in 57% of seizures.

  • Nitrous oxide: total nitrous oxide seizures by police forces and Border Force decreased by 16%, from 374 in year ending March 2021 to 314 seizures in year ending March 2022.
  • NPS powders: the number of total seizures of NPS powders decreased by 26%, from 358 to 266.
  • NPS Other: seizures of NPS Other decreased by 25%, from 1,222 to 918 seizures between the years ending March 2021 and 2022.
  • Synthetic cannabinoids: in the year ending March 2022, there were 1,731 seizures of synthetic cannabinoids, a decrease of 24% from the previous year.

Conclusion

While these figures are always interesting and the continuing growth in the amount of cocaine seized certainly noteworthy, it is important to remember that these statistics are a more reliable indication of policing and border force activity than actual levels of drug importation and dealing. We are not able to estimate what proportion of drugs are intercepted by the authorities.

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