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Class A drug use 'at record levels due to young people'

Cocaine in a man's pocket Image copyright Getty Images

Young adults are thought to be behind record levels of class A drug use in England and Wales.

A slight rise in use among people aged between 16 and 59 has led to the highest recorded total since records began in 1996, according to the government's latest Crime Survey.

The increase is "primarily driven" by powder cocaine and ecstasy use among 16 to 24-year-olds, the Home Office says.

The sharpest increase is among those in their early twenties.

Around 1.3 million, or 3.7%, of people aged between 16 and 59 used a class A drug in the last year, according to the latest official drug misuse statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

That's not a big increase since 2017/18, when it was 3.5%, and is only slightly higher than the previous record of 3.6% in 2008.

But the report says there has been a "genuine rise in Class A drug use" among 16 to 24-year-olds.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Police stand with cocaine seized in Guatemala City

Class A drug use was on a downward trend between 1996 and and 2011/12, from 9.2% to 6.2%.

Slight increases year-on-year since then have resulted in a "significant" rise, with around 8.7% of young adults taking a class A drug in the last year - or 550,000 people.

The percentage of 20 to 24-year-olds was highest, at 10.4%.

Last month official figures showed that drug deaths in England and Wales have reached record numbers - with 2,917 people dying due to illegal drug use in 2018.

These were mostly due to opiates such as heroin, but cocaine deaths have doubled over the last three years. The production of both opium and cocaine are at their highest levels ever, according to the UN.

MDMA deaths also rose, from 56 to 92, with deaths of under 29s in England and Wales the highest since records began in 1993.

And according to the drug policy group Transform, it's those statistics on deaths that should concern us the most.

"Given the Government's narrow focus on reducing use, the rise in class A drug use among young people since 2012 looks very bad," Steve Rolles from Transform tells Newsbeat.

"But general stats on use don't reveal much about problematic or harmful use.

"This year's drug death statistics are more revealing and more troubling - with deaths rising at a much faster rate than use."

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