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Monday, 27 May, 2002, 11:29 GMT 12:29 UK
Drug prices plummet in UK
New Year revellers at the Ministry of Sound Rave held at the Millennium Dome
The price of ecstasy has fallen by almost a third
The price of illegal drugs has fallen sharply in the past 12 years, triggering fears that high alcohol costs could push more young people towards drug use.

The prices of cocaine, heroin and cannabis have all dropped since 1990, while the cost of an ecstasy tablet has fallen from 18.80 to just 7, according to Home Office figures.

Drug prices 2002 (1990)
Heroin 63 per gram (90)
Cocaine 60 per gram (87)
Amphetamines 9 per gram (13.80)
Ecstasy 7 per pill (18.80)
LSD 3.40 per tablet (4.20)
Cannabis resin 77 per ounce (91.80)
Herbal cannabis 80 per ounce (59.30)

Meanwhile, the cost of legal, taxable drugs such as cigarettes and alcohol has risen over the same period - which critics said sent a mixed message to young people.

Harry Shapiro, spokesman for the charity Drugscope, said the price falls were both an effect and a cause of growing drug demand in the UK.

"It reflects the popularity of illegal drugs amongst an ever-widening group of people.

"Cocaine, for instance, has become increasingly popular. Although the drug still has got this champagne image attached to it, nevertheless it's been coming down in price and is now more attractive for people, more affordable for people, than ever before".

'Pick-and-mix'

Liberal Democrat MP David Laws, who obtained the Home Office figures, said the prices made a nonsense of existing policies drawing a strict line between illegal and legal drugs.


It is time for us to have an objective, rational look at our drugs policy

Lib Dem MP David Laws

He feared the lower prices of illegal drugs "could force more young people towards drugs, particularly in the more deprived areas."

"If as a society we have got a situation where there are economic reasons for people to use illegal drugs then I think it is time for us to have an objective, rational look at our drugs policy," he said.

But Mr Shapiro was sceptical that price alone could be driving youngsters away from alcohol and towards illegal drugs.

"We've always been a pick-and-mix drug culture in this country. People who are on the illicit drugs scene will be drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes as well.

"It may be that the law is a certain deterrent for people who regularly visit pubs to 'step over the line'.

"But we are a poly-drug-using society and have been for ages".

Customs issues

Both Mr Laws and Mr Shapiro said the statistics raised questions about the amount of drugs which must be getting into the country.

Mr Laws, MP for Yeovil, said the falling prices proved that government attempts to tackle the drugs trade were failing.

"The fact that prices have fallen so substantially proves that people must be finding it easier to get drugs into the country."

Mr Shapiro added: "The main issue here is the degree to which Customs in particular can stop consignments of drugs coming into the country.

"They've always admitted they've only ever been able to stop a fraction of what's available."


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22 May 02 | UK Politics
08 Apr 02 | Health
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