Cocaine addiction in Scotland and the rest of the UK is a continuing problem that needs to be effectively dealt with. For some people, cocaine rehab is the only solution, but many can get help before the addiction worsens to that level.

Understanding cocaine use in the UK and its rise in popularity can help you get a better picture of the problems addicts, health workers and society face and what can be done about it.


Recent Data on Cocaine Use in the UK

Cocaine use in the UK and its popularity is undisputed. The UK as a whole is considered the cocaine capital of Europe – its use is so prevalent that traces can be found in our sewage. In an ONS report from last year, 38.8% of adults said it would be easy for them to get illegal drugs within 24 hours, and cocaine is no exception.

Scotland, in particular, has an unhealthy relationship with cocaine and drugs in general. Despite the number of drug deaths in Scotland being at its lowest since 2017, 1051 people still died in 2022. Cocaine was related to 371 of these deaths.

Scotland has the worst drug death rate in the UK and Europe, being three times as common as they were 20 years ago. Drug deaths remain a constant problem in the UK, especially Scotland, as the rate of drug poisoning deaths was 2.7 times higher compared to the UK average in 2021.


Cocaine Health Risks

As cocaine is a fast-acting drug that then fades away quickly, many people who take it casually do not think about the health risks.

Cocaine mostly has an impact on your heart. It can increase your heart rate, raise your blood pressure and body temperature and constrict your blood vessels. All this can put a lot of pressure on your heart, increasing the risk of a cardiac event.

Long-term use can start to impact your stomach and intestines, resulting in tears and ulcers, and you can also suffer from kidney and liver damage.

Beyond the physical risks, you can develop a psychological dependence – causing depression, psychosis, fatigue and insomnia.


Reasons Behind the Rise in Cocaine Use

The rise in cocaine use doesn’t happen in a vacuum – there are many reasons why the drug is popular in the UK.


Scotland and the rest of the UK have a dangerous relationship with alcohol, and it is ingrained in our culture. The pandemic only increased the amount of problem drinkers, and this has had an effect on cocaine in the UK. Alcohol and cocaine are commonly paired together, especially by casual users. Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, making you more likely to take drugs, and can be a depressive, whilst cocaine lifts you and lessens the effects of drinking heavily.

Mental Health Problems

People with mental health issues sometimes self-medicate before seeking professional help. Alcohol and cannabis are more commonly used by people suffering from mental health issues, but cocaine is popular as well. Cocaine increases dopamine levels in the brain, making a person happier. This euphoria doesn’t last long, though and eventually, a person has to keep taking cocaine to feel normal – whilst making their mental health problems worse.

Part of a Lifestyle

Beyond cocaine addiction, the drug is seen by casual users as part of their lifestyle. Using on the weekend when going to a nightclub is a common routine. Individuals on a football away day, taking some in the stadium toilets to gear up for the match is sadly far too common. Once, cocaine was a symbol of wealth and status, now, it is more a fixture of a good time and a way to mark an event.


Once a drug for the rich and famous, in the UK especially, the drug has crossed the class divides. The cost of the drug has remained stable in the UK, and is one of the cheapest places in Europe to purchase it.


Street cocaine is now purer, maintaining around a 60% purity level. A purer product creates more demand.


The adage now is that getting cocaine is easier than ever. Easy transactions through encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp and delivery by moped means people feel safer purchasing illegal drugs.


How Cocaine Use Affects Society

Beyond the personal health issues, drug addiction, in particular cocaine use, has wider-reaching impacts on society at a local and national level.


Drug use is directly related to crime. Drugs are illegal and need criminals to facilitate their use. Violence over territory amongst drug gangs, drug users resorting to violence and crime to fund their habit, and users being arrested for buying drugs are all directly caused by a rise in cocaine use.

Social Issues

Cocaine use can break apart families, which are important pillars of a productive society. Less secure family units can compound issues such as poverty, hunger, and problems in education and contribute to problems like domestic abuse.

Implications For Public Health and Policy

The governments of the UK and Scotland have responded to the rise in cocaine use and drugs overall. Last year the government announced a 10-year plan to combat drug addiction, with a focus on breaking the supply chains of gangs.

They also want to provide world-class rehabilitation treatment to anyone who needs it in the UK, promising an additional £780 million pounds of funding.

Whilst the government in Westminster still sees drugs as a criminal matter, Scotland views it as a public health issue. They have just announced a pilot scheme for a drug consumption room that will no longer be blocked by the UK government. This consumption room will be a place where people can safely inject drugs with the hope this will reduce overdose deaths.

This may represent, finally, a shift in attitudes to drug consumption. Senior police officers have called for drugs to be decriminalised. Cuts to funding in every corner of public health means that new paths have to be considered – clearly what has gone before hasn’t worked.

The war on drugs has been waging for 40 years, and the statistics prove it’s not getting any better.


Get Help Today

Cocaine in the UK is a continuing issue that ripples out to affect every corner of society. The reasons for its rise are many, and it’s important to see the wider picture to help an individual suffering.

If you want to know more about how we treat cocaine addiction here at Nova Recovery, get in touch today. Call us now at 01475 303998.



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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 15, 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.