Page last updated at 01:14 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

UK top of European cocaine league

Cocaine and a razor blade
One in eight Britons under 35 had taken cocaine, the report suggested

The UK has recorded the highest number of cocaine users in the EU for the fifth year running, a report suggests.

Annual figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction showed that 7.7% of Britons aged 15-64 had taken cocaine.

The Tories accused the government of failing an "entire generation" of young people with its drugs policies.

The Home Office said the statistics and other figures suggested the overall use of drugs in the UK had stabilised.

Cannabis use

The figures suggested 11.2% of Britons aged 15-24, and 12.7% of those aged between 15-34, had taken cocaine.

An estimated 12 million EU citizens aged 15-64 had taken cocaine at some point, 11 million had used amphetamines and 9.5 million had taken ecstasy.

Some 71 million European citizens - about one in four people - had tried cannabis.

The figure for cannabis in the UK was 30.1% of the 15-64 age group, topped only by France (30.6%) and Denmark (36.5%).

The report also said ecstasy use had remained consistently higher in the UK compared to other countries.

It added: "Data from a few countries suggest that cocaine could be replacing amphetamines and ecstasy among some sectors of the drug-using population.

"This may be the case in the UK and Denmark, and to some extent in Spain."

'Generation betrayed'

Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said the report confirmed the UK's status as the "cocaine capital of Europe".

"It is particularly disturbing that we have the highest proportion of 15 and 16-year-olds using cocaine - the government's failure is betraying a whole generation of young people," he said.

"This is due to Labour's chaotic, confused and staggeringly complacent approach to drugs. Drugs wreck lives, destroy communities and fuel crime - the fact Labour do not recognise this make them part of the problem, not the solution."

Last week, figures from the British Crime Survey suggested about 810,000 Britons had taken cocaine in the past year.

Some 3% of people questioned admitted using class A drugs over the previous 12 months, which was less than the previous year.

A Home Office spokesman said: "Home Office figures published last week show overall drug use in the UK is at an all time low and the number of seizures is up 15% on the last annual statistics.

"Alongside this, new figures today show the number of problem drug users has remained stable. We continue to focus our efforts on reducing the harm caused by illegal drugs through tough enforcement, education and treatment."

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