Experts say cocaine use in the UK is much greater than previously thought after thousands of drug users admitted taking the Class A drug on a regular basis, Sky News can exclusively reveal.
Researchers at Substance abuse charity Addaction say the UK has a secret cocaine addiction and the drug is being used everywhere in the UK.
In the largest study of its kind, the experts found cannabis is used by almost 80% of drug users, while cocaine or crack cocaine is taken by 70%.
Although an average of seven in 10 drug users regularly use cocaine, only 14% seek help from healthcare professionals or charities.
And 90% of users who responded to the survey are employed or in full-time education.
Addaction obtained the results by asking 8,500 drug users in Scotland, targeting them with social media adverts. They shared their findings exclusively with Sky News.
Previous studies suggested that only 30% of drug users used cocaine regularly.
It is the largest survey of its kind in Scotland or the rest of the UK. The report author says the results in Scotland would be replicated throughout the rest of the UK.
Andrew Horne, director of Addaction in Scotland, said: Cocaine is seen as a party drug but also has a stigma around it and is widely used yet no one is talking about it.
It’s an open secret. We talk about alcohol oiling the conversation, well my experience is that cocaine is that drug now.
People think that it’s a middle class, middle aged dinner party drug, but our experience is that it’s everywhere.
Almost all (90%) of the respondents were aged between 18 and 45.
The study comes in the week prime ministerial candidate Michael Gove was criticised for previous cocaine use, and frontrunner Boris Johnson refused to deny using the Class A drug.
Author and columnist Bryony Gordon said her addiction to cocaine crept up on her while living a hectic social life – but nearly destroyed her when it took a grip.
She said: It destroys lives. It tends to lead to people searching for the next high, and all normal reservations come down.
It makes you inherently risky and you don’t care about the consequences until the next day.
In 2017, Addaction launched an online live chat service for drug addicts and users.
Mr Horne said they immediately noticed this discreet, anonymous helpline was attracting a high proportion of cocaine users.
Experts say cocaine is often used as a recreational drug and many users don’t see it as a problem.
One young professional in his 30s, who did not wish to be identified, told Sky News: It’s usually just a weekend thing, when I’m out with the lads, in a pub or club or festival or something like that.
It’s more just a recreational thing. I don’t do it every day or anything. But when you go out on the lash, you have a few pints, you know, you have a bit of coke to bring you back. It wakes you back up. That’s it really.