Sat, Dec 03, 2011 - Page 6 News List

One-tenth of UK banknotes show traces of cocaine

The Guardian, LONDON

More than one in every 10 banknotes in circulation in Britain is contaminated with cocaine, police drug experts have said.

An official inquiry into the use of cocaine carried out by the Home Office’s advisory council for the misuse of drugs has been told that 11 percent of banknotes in general circulation tested positive for traces of cocaine, against 4 percent in 2005.

The finding, based on regular testing by 15 UK police forces, reinforces surveys that show use of cocaine powder in Britain is the highest in Europe, and is above levels seen in the US and Australia. Police experts on Thursday told the first evidence session of the delayed council inquiry that cocaine now being sold on the streets and in clubs was being cut with methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) — the active ingredient in ecstasy.

They suggested longer pub hours since 2006 may have contributed to the rise, as cocaine powder is used by 20-something men on a night out to carry on drinking without falling asleep.

Detective Chief Inspector Trevor Williamson, the drugs co-ordinator for the UK’s Association of Chief Police Officers, told the hearing that police officers on the street believed there was a direct link between cocaine use, alcohol consumption and a rise in violence, although the academic evidence was more tentative.

Adrian Parsons, a police drugs expert in Kent, southeast of London, said that the use of ketamine, a powerful horse tranquilizer, and a more potent form of ecstasy were on the rise, but cocaine “we see all over the place.”

He said the typical user was a white male, aged 18 to 45, and part of the pub/club drinking night-time economy. The people he most often stopped following a positive palm swab on his scanning machine at nightclub doors were working, had their own homes and no convictions. They would most likely end up sent home with a caution for possession.

He said cocaine use was widespread among all types of people.

“Gone are the days of the 1980s when it was just champagne charlies,” he said.

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