acquiesce - October 6th, 2020

Just How Serious is the UK’s Cocaine Addiction?

Cocaine is most commonly associated with partying, groups of lads, and a certain type of person. However, research has found that Class A drug abuse is on the rise and cocaine is being used everywhere, by many different types of people.

Cocaine – The ‘Social’ Drug

When individuals first begin to use cocaine, it is usually only used at the weekend or celebratory events, much like the use of alcohol. It is first seen as a ‘treat’, and reserved only for going out, or with friends. 

For most people, the term ‘addiction’ means developing a reliance, however, if an individual finds that they are unable to cut down or quit using cocaine even on a weekly basis, it is a sign of an addiction.

Repeated use of cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit, causing it to adapt to the extra dopamine caused by the drug, eventually becoming less sensitive to it. As a result, people take stronger and more frequent doses to relieve withdrawal symptoms and feel the same high they did initially.

Cocaine can be a difficult drug to quit due to its social use. Those who try to quit, often complain that spending time with friends that continue to use the substance, or live the party lifestyle where drugs are used, is what causes them to relapse and begin taking cocaine once again.

A 2019 study by substance abuse charity We Are With You (formerly known as Addaction) found that cocaine is taken by 70% of all UK drug users. That is just 8% less than those who use cannabis, the most commonly used drug. 

According to research done by The Global Drug Survey in June 2020, the United Kingdom had the second highest number of people using cocaine at 39.2% over the last 12 months, just 2.4% less than the Netherlands.

Despite this high number of regular cocaine users, only 14% seek help from healthcare professionals.

91% of cocaine users aged between 19 and 45 were also found to abuse two or more other substances alongside cocaine. 

According to the 2018-2019 Crime Survey for England and Wales, since 2008-09 there has been a 15% year-on-year rise, with cocaine remaining the most popular illegal stimulant. This also correlates with the purity of the substance increasing, reaching its highest level in the decade. 

Professor Harry Sumnall, a substance use researcher, believes that the increase in cocaine use is down to a number of reasons: 

“Cocaine is represented more on social media, hospital admissions have increased and police and border force seizure data shows cocaine is at its highest purity for many years, although the price hasn’t increased in response, which makes it a more attractive purchase.”

Thanks to the development of technology and social media, the dealing of cocaine is now far more accessible to younger people through end-to-end encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp and disappearing images on Snapchat.  

Could Coronavirus Cut Cocaine Use?

When the coronavirus lockdown first began, there were concerns around the impact of significant stress, job losses, illness and bereavement on those struggling with addictions and those in recovery. 

Links between traumatic stress and harmful addictions have been well established. Those with existing addictions who are seeking recovery have found this period particularly hard due to the reduced support available. Experts predicted a surge in relapses during this time as a result of low mental health, stress, boredom and a lack of routine. 

Despite these predictions, results from the Global Drug Survey found that almost 40% (39.4%) of respondents had decreased their use of cocaine by either a little or a lot, with 26.8% claiming to have cut down a lot. 40.6% reported that their usage had remained the same, whilst only 20% had increased their usage of cocaine.

The top 8 reasons for people decreasing their use of cocaine were as follows:

    1. I have less occasions where I usually use this drug (80.5%)
    2. I have less contact with people who I use this drug with (70%)
    3. I don’t like using this drug at home (46.3%)
    4. I don’t feel like using this drug as much in a pandemic (42.3%)
    5. It has been more difficult for me to access this drug (23.4%)
    6. I am using this time to get more healthy (22.3%)
    7. I can’t afford to take it as much (16.3%)
    8. I am spending more time with my partner/family (13.7%)


Whether those who have decreased their cocaine intake over lockdown will increase again after is unclear. From the reasons given, we can see that whilst some have seen lockdown as an opportunity to work on their health and spend more time with family, for others it wasn’t a matter of choice but rather an inconvenience.

Perhaps  some people will continue going without cocaine for longer periods of time once lockdown is over and possibly even give it up all together, though the temptation may prove too much when people begin to start celebrating once again.

Common Signs of Cocaine Addiction

If you or a loved one is addicted to cocaine, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Regular colds, congestion or nosebleeds
  • Hyperactivity
  • Agitation
  • Difficulty with concentrating or focusing
  • Insomnia, trouble sleeping
  • Struggling with daily functions, such as going to work

Cocaine can also change brain chemistry over time, which means some people may show symptoms of psychosis.

If you or a loved one is ready to begin their journey to recovery from drug addiction, schedule a free consultation with us at Acquiesce. Our recovery programme is completely anonymous, free from judgement and tailored to each individual’s needs. Contact us today or book a callback for a time that suits you.

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