ILLEGAL drug use has never caused more harm to society – costing the UK more than 19billion and killing a record 2,917 in a year, a damning report has found.
A major review of the cost of illicit drugs to the UK found a considerable increase in children taking drugs, while kids and teenagers have been pulled into drugs supply on an alarming scale.
The illicit drugs market is worth an estimated 9.4billion a year less than half the cost of its impact on crime and health
Dame Carol Blacks review ordered by the Home Office said government measures have had limited success in stemming the soaring supply of drugs.
She blamed this on budgetary constraints faced by the National Crime Agency, the Border Force and police forces.
And worryingly she concluded that the authorities stand little chance of stopping the menace.
Her review estimated the illicit drugs market is worth 9.4billion a year – less than half of the cost of crime, health and other impacts on wider society.
An estimated 3million people took some form of illegal drug last year, with 300,000 people using the most dangerous such as heroin and crack cocaine.
In a sign of the scale of the drugs crisis facing Britain, Dame Carol said it was nearly as easy to order a pizza as buying drugs on the streets.
In chilling comments yesterday, Dame Carol told the drugs summit: We have an abundant supply coming into our countries from around the world, more than ever before.
Its purer, its more available, you can buy whichever drug you want almost anywhere.
It wouldnt be too far to go to say its almost for some drugs as easy as getting your pizza.
She added: At the same time we have seen a reduction in very good treatment and recovery, and that again all adds up to leave us as you will see in this report with the perfect storm.
I believe this perfect storm will not go away unless Government takes action.
Supply of the most serious drugs – heroin and crack cocaine – has been overtaken by the county lines model, in which gangs and distribution networks from cities move into smaller towns and use violence to overtake local dealers while using children or vulnerable people to sell their product.
The review found there is a strong link between young people being drawn into county lines and increases in child poverty, the numbers of children in care and school exclusions.
It also found social media had fuelled the problem too by playing a facilitating role.
Police and crime minister Kit Malthouse said: The findings, which we will discuss today, are troubling and paint a stark picture of how illegal drugs are devastating lives and communities, and fuelling serious violence.
The report paints a worrying picture of how drugs have infiltrated prisons, with 15 per cent of inmates testing positive in random drug tests last year.
More than a third of people in prison are there due to drug-related offences, the report found.