New numbers show a sharp increase in female cocaine fatalities

New numbers show a sharp increase in female cocaine fatalities

According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 560 men and 148 women died of cocaine-related causes in the UK in 2019.

These new figures show a sharp increase in the number of female fatalities related to cocaine use when compared to previous years.

Taking age into account, the death rate for men declined slightly in 2019, but for women it increased for the tenth consecutive year.

Why are more women dying of cocaine-related causes?

A recent study by the Scottish Government Substance Misuse Unit concluded that the trend is “likely to reflect multiple, interacting causes.”

Researchers identified a number of potential causes, including:

  • Changing patterns of substance use
  • Changes to treatment services
  • Cuts in treatment funding
  • An increasing prevalence of physical and mental health co-morbidities in females

Overall trends in cocaine use

The 2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) named cocaine as the second most prevalent drug, after cannabis.

The National Crime Agency also reported a staggering 290% increase in cocaine use in England, Wales, and Scotland between 2011 and 2019.

Powder and crack cocaine use

The latest CSEW reported the highest number of powder cocaine users for 10 years, at around 976,000 people. Powder cocaine also seems to be becoming more popular with those in their early 20s.

Although crack is less prevalent than powder cocaine, the UK still has the highest levels of crack cocaine use in the European Union. In fact, 65% of the 11,000 people starting treatment for crack cocaine problems in the EU were in the UK.

Why are cocaine-related fatalities rising in the UK?

As we don’t yet have accurate figures for 2020, the increase in cocaine-related deaths can’t be linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, production of cocaine has surged since 2013. This has led to:

  • Increased availability
  • Increased affordability
  • Higher purity levels

In 2018, the purity of cocaine increased to a record high of 63%, making it much more potent than the cocaine that was available in the UK a decade ago. Surges in production mean that the drug is now cheaper to buy, while county lines have made it more readily available in smaller towns and villages.

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