In Depth

Drugs as easy to buy online as pizza, says government report

Independent review warns of ‘abundant supply’ of illegal narcotics coming into UK

More illegal drugs than ever before are coming into the UK - and buying them is almost as easy as ordering a pizza, according to a government-commissioned report.

The independent review by Professor Carol Black found that the country’s illicit drugs market is worth £9.4bn a year, but costs society an estimated £19bn.

And an “unprecedented” number of children and teenagers are being drawn into the drug trade through county lines gangs, Black warns.

Speaking at the UK Drugs Summit in Glasgow on Thursday, she said: “We have an abundant supply coming into our countries from around the world, more than ever before. It’s purer, it’s more available, you can buy whichever drug you want almost anywhere.

“It wouldn’t be too far to go to say it’s almost for some drugs as easy as getting your pizza.”

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The publication of the review findings comes days after the BBC reported that an investigation by the broadcaster had found it took just 27 minutes to receive an order of cocaine from a drug dealer in Leeds.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw writes: “The key conclusion of Dame Carol Black’s report on illegal drugs - that a ‘perfect storm’ has developed that can be abated only through government intervention - is based on compelling evidence from an impressive array of statistics and information.

“The headline figure - the £19bn cost to society of illicit drugs in England - is designed to act as a wake-up call.”

A 2017 report from Public Health England found that every £1 spent on drug treatment saved £2.50 in costs to society.

Black’s review found that drug-related deaths in the UK are now at an all-time high, while the market is becoming increasingly violent.

An estimated three million people took some form of illicit drug in England and Wales last year, with 300,000 in England using opiates or crack cocaine.

Crime Minister Kit Malthouse, who chaired the Glasgow summit, said the findings were “troubling and paint a stark picture of how illegal drugs are devastating lives and communities, and fuelling serious violence”.

“We are already taking tough action to combat county lines and violent crime and to disrupt and prosecute the organised gangs that bring so much misery. But clearly we all need to do more,” he concluded.

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