Illegal drugs are responsible for up to 1,600 deaths a year in the UK, and destroy thousands of relationships, families and careers. Find out about the most commonly used illegal drugs in England and Wales and the effects they can have on your health.
Did you know?
- Almost three million adults in England and Wales, or 8.6% of 16 to 59 year olds, have used illegal drugs in the last year according to the 2009-10 British Crime Survey (BCS).
- Among 16 to 24 year olds, the proportion of people who used drugs [http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/drugs] in the last year is considerably higher. The BCS estimates that about one in five young people, used one or more illegal drugs in the last year. However, use of illegal drugs in this age group has fallen since 2008-09 (22.6%).
- As in previous years, cannabis was the drug that was most likely to be used. Around one in fifteen 16 to 59 year olds said they had used cannabis in the last year. Health risks associated with cannibis use range from paranoia and loss of motivation to psychosis and lung disease.
- Powder cocaine and ecstasy were the second and third most commonly used drugs respectively. An estimated 2.4% of 16-59 year olds reported taking powder cocaine in the last year. Cocaine is highly addictive and is known to cause fits or heart attacks [http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heart-attack/Pages/Introduction.aspx] even in users who are young and healthy.
- Ecstasy was the third most used drug. The survey found that 1.6% of 16 to 59 year olds had taken ecstasy in the last year. Ecstasy can cause panic attacks [www.nhs.uk/conditions/panic-disorder] or psychotic states and has been linked to has been linked to liver, kidney and heart problems.
- According to the survey, the most common age for first use of drugs was 16 for cannabis and 18 for powder cocaine. This has fallen since 2003-04, the last year for which figures are available, from 18 for cannabis and 20 for powder cocaine. The most common age for first use of ecstasy is 18 and remains unchanged since 2003-04.
For more information about drug use and the effects of drugs on your mind and body visit NHS Choices. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/drugs/
There are several sources of support if you or someone you know has a problem with drugs. Check out Drugs: where to get help on NHS Choices for an overview of the different services available.