4A FLOOD of cheap, potent cocaine on Britain’s streets is putting young people at risk of deadly overdoses, experts have warned.
More than a million Brits tried coke over the last 12 months – and doctors say one in five regular users will become addicts.
4 Reality star and former semi-pro footballer Mike Thalassitis killed himself after taking cocaine and alcohol earlier this yearCredit: PA:Press Association
One in five 16 to 24-year-olds have tried coke in the last year, according to the Home Office – while hospital admissions for coke-fuelled mental health conditions in England have trebled in the last decade.
Experts warn the Class A drug can trigger paranoia, depression and suicidal thoughts. And with it’s popularity soaring it’s easier to get hold of, more socially acceptable and cheaper than ever.
Ian Hamilton, a senior lecturer in addiction and mental health at the University of York, said that there are well proven links between cocaine and acute psychosis in young people and adults.
He added: “There is a problem with increasing purity of cocaine which I think is catching out young naive users who are at risk of overdosing as they misjudge how much of the drug they should use.”
4 Another former Love Island contestant, Sophie Gradon also ended her own life by suicide in June last year after taking cocaine and boozeCredit: PA:Press Association
Harry Sumnall, a professor in substance use at the Public Health Institute, explained: “The price of a gram of cocaine in the UK has remained stable, at around £35-£40.
“People’s incomes rise with time, so a gram of cocaine has become more affordable, and you get a higher-purity product for your money.”
This is why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, to warn about the mental health risks of taking the drug.
Deaths linked to the drug have quadrupled since 2011, and the inquests into the deaths of two Love Island stars – Mike Thalassitis and Sophie Gradon – revealed how they killed themselves after taking cocaine.
Available and affordable
The rise of cocaine in British society is down to two key factors, experts told The Sun Online.
Firstly, higher-purity coke is more widely available and more affordable.
Prof Sumnall explained that coca-leaf production in South America has drastically increased since 2012, meaning criminal gangs can now offer a higher-purity drug, and still make a big profit without raising prices.
He says that plummeting prices mean that cocaine has become more popular with people who couldn’t previously afford it.
He added: “Now even those who have less to spend can buy the sort of cocaine that richer people could only previously afford.
“Cocaine now has a reputation for providing good value for money.
“It acts as a symbol of a particular aspirational lifestyle that was previously unaffordable.”
Have you or your family been affected by cocaine? Tell us your story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
End Of The LineCocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.
Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.
A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.
That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.
Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.
People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.
It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.
Cocaine often goes hand-in-hand with alcohol, with users believing it enables them drink to more.
Prof Sumnall said: “The combination of alcohol and cocaine… produces greater euphoria and a decrease in the impairments associated with drunkenness.
“This produces its own risks around drink-driving, violence, personal safety, and health.”
Both Mike and Sophie had cocaine and alcohol in their systems when they died.
1 in 5 regular users will become addicts
According to government figures, cocaine use by 16 to 24-year-olds in England and Wales increased by 30 per cent between 2016/17 and 2017/18.
Many users take the drug to experience feelings of euphoria, confidence and alertness.
But it can cause side-effects like sleep deprivation, hyper-vigilance, anxiety and paranoia, professor Jason Ferris writes for The Conversation.
4 Jeremy McConnell has opened up about his cocaine use as part of The Sun’s latest campaignCredit: Nick Obank – The Sun
Using cocaine over a long time or bingeing on the drug may lead to depression, irritability, disturbances of eating and sleeping, and tactile hallucinations, such as a feeling of bugs crawling on the skin.
Prof Sumnall added: “If someone is regularly taking a high purity drug, they’re much more likely to experience an intensification of effects.
“Low purity drugs are also harmful of course, but then we’re also worried about the chemicals that have been used to bulk out the cocaine to make up the gram.
“Some estimates are that around 20 per cent of regular users might become dependent.
“In the short term, harms can affect any user, and although rare, can be life-threatening.
Am I addicted to cocaine? The signs and symptoms of addictionCocaine is highly addictive and what can start out as a one-off can quickly turn into a habit.
Regular use of the drug changes the way the brain releases dopamine – a chemical in the brain that makes you feel happy.
But the high is short-lived so often users will take more to feel the desired effects again.
Over time, the body and brain can become too used to cocaine that it builds up a tolerance, which means you have to take more to feel the same high.
If you recognise any of the following behaviours in yourself, it might mean you’ve developed an addiction to cocaine:
You’re taking more of the drug to feel the effects
When you stop or reduce your dosage, you feel agitated, restless and depressed
You’re struggling to cut down or control how much you take, even if you try to
You spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to get cocaine
You’re disregarding family, friends and work in favour of taking cocaine
You know the damage it’s doing to you, but you can’t stop taking it
“These include effects related to a rapid and large increase in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to chest pain, and potentially heart attack, and cocaine use can lead to stroke or a harmfully high increase in body temperature.”
On top of this cocaine use can cause social problems, like the breakdown of relationships and debt.
‘ULTIMATE MARTYR’ Tommy Dreamer considered murdering Heyman and suicide at WrestleMania LAST MEAL Mum treated son, 5, to Happy Meal before killing him and herself in reservoir REALITY BITES Why a new video game could be key to the fight against mental health problems ‘NO ONE CARES’ Mum says son, 37, was hounded over Universal Credit before killing himself CommentTHERESA MAY We should never accept a rise in mental health problems — all minds matter Exclusive’WE’LL SAVE KIDS’ PM to unveil plans to train teachers to spot kids’ mental health issues ExclusiveTORN APART Facebook tipped my son over the edge – now his daughter, 2, has no daddy TRAGIC SEND-OFF Jeremy Kyle Show ‘suicide’ victim ‘to be buried in pauper’s funeral’ RevealedKNOW THE SIGNS 1 in 3 men turn to alcohol to ease depression – the 10 signs you’re at risk ‘UNBEARABLE PAIN’ Traumatised girl, 17, allowed to starve herself to death after sex abuse ExclusiveDARKEST DAYS I’d rip my hair out and cut myself after Instagram drove me to self-harm SHOCK STATS ‘Alarming’ rise in young people self-harming – with 1 in 5 teen girls at risk
Jeremy McConnell revealed the depths he sank to while gripped by cocaine addiction as we launched End Of The Line this week.
We have also shown the drastic effect the drug has on your body, minute by minute, after you take it.
Where to go for helpFRANK
Helpline open 24/7: 0300 123 6600
For help finding a service or to Instant chat
Help for families affected by drugs and alcohol
Mental health support line: 0300 304 7000
Change, Grow, Live
Help for anyone with drug and alcohol issues.
Dedicated help for people under 25.
Action on Addiction
Rehab and community addiction treatment
0300 330 0659
Help, support and advice
Man who snorted cocaine for 25 years reveals ‘lumps of flesh fell out of his nose’
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at email@example.com or call 0207 782 4368 . You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.