Tottenham MP David Lammy has claimed that the UK is the “drugs market of Europe” and that an increase in the trade in illegal drugs is responsible for an increase in levels of violent crime around the country.
Lammy’s claims have started a conversation in the UK about drug use, as well as the scale of the illegal drug trade and the problem of drug addiction in Britain.
According to the Home Office, the illegal drug industry in Britain generates as much as £5.3bn annually. Similar figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that illegal drug revenue is approximately £4.4 billion every year.
However, figures from the National Crime Agency put the value of the illegal drug market even higher, estimating that black market drug sales in the UK generate as much as £10.7 billion in illegal revenue on an annual basis.
One reason for the discrepancy in figures in the way in which the “value” of the illicit drug trade is calculated. Whie the Home Office and ONS only estimate income from sales of illegal drugs, the National Crime Agency also accounts for the costs of drug use to the general public.
These costs include expenses involved in law enforcement and criminal justice, as well as the immense costs to the NHS caused by the use of illegal drugs. The National Crime Agency also takes into account the cost of crimes, such as thefts, committed by users of illegal drugs.
Even the most conservative estimates of the scale of Britain’s drug trade highlight how large the problem is, as well as the cost it has on society.
According to survey data, almost 10 per cent of British adults admit that they’ve used an illegal drug in the last 12 months. Interestingly, this is slightly lower than the percentage recorded via previous surveys, such as a similar confidential survey carried out 10 years ago.
Despite this, many experts believe that today’s illegal drug market is more dangerous than ever before due to the increase in sales of illicit opioids, which are far more likely to lead to addiction than many of the widely used recreational drugs.
Opioids, which include medications such as morphine and heroin, are also more likely to result in death or serious bodily harm in the event of an overdose than more widely used recreational drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy.
An increase in the use of heroin is particularly worrying. Many of the UK’s seaside resort towns top the list of overdose deaths from opioids such as morphine and heroin, with the death rate of Blackpool twice as high as any other city in England and Wales.
Other coastal towns have significant heroin problems, with 10 of the 14 UK communities most affected by heroin located along the coast. In these towns, the rate of opiate deaths is 4.5 per 100,000 people; nationally, it’s just 1.7 in England and 2.3 in Wales.
While MP David Lammy’s claim that the UK is the “drugs market of Europe” may or may not be accurate, the UK certainly has a problem of drug addiction — one that’s becoming increasingly problematic in certain parts of the nation.