Cocaine and crack cocaine

Survey data suggest an increase in cocaine use in the United Kingdom and, to a lesser extent, in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. Cocaine use and increases in use appear to be more common among young people living in urban areas. National figures may therefore reflect local trends in some major European cities to only a limited extent.

A number of indicators suggest that concern about levels of cocaine use and related problems is justified. Such indicators include treatment demand, toxicological findings in victims of overdose deaths, drug seizures and studies of at-risk populations. Apart from a decrease in 2000, the number of cocaine seizures has increased steadily since 1985. Similarly, the quantity of cocaine seized has generally exhibited an upward trend over the same period, although figures tend to fluctuate from year to year. Relatively high rates of drug treatment attendance for cocaine use are reported from the Netherlands and Spain (30 % and 19 % respectively) and to a lesser extent from Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom (between 6 % and 7 %). With the exception of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, most cocaine treatment demand appears to be related to the use of cocaine powder (cocaine hydrochloride) as opposed to crack cocaine (cocaine base).

The prevalence of use of crack cocaine in Europe appears to be relatively low, although sporadic local reports suggest a problem among marginal groups in some cities. As crack cocaine is particularly associated with negative health and social consequences, even when prevalence rates are low, more detailed attention needs to be paid to any emerging trends in this area as the public health impact of even a moderate increase in use could be considerable.