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UK: Cover-up Over the Rise in Ecstasy Use – January 2002

Forums Drugs Ecstasy & MDMA UK: Cover-up Over the Rise in Ecstasy Use – January 2002

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  • Cover-up claimed as ecstasy use ‘soars to 2 million pills a week’
    by The Observer

    Copyright: The Observer

    Two million ecstasy pills a week are taken in Britain, four times more than the Government has admitted publicly, warns a confidential intelligence report seen by The Observer.

    Official estimates maintain that only half a million tablets of the controversial dance drug are taken every week in pubs and clubs.

    A classified study by Customs and Excise, dramatically raising the figure, is revealed as police are asking the Government to downgrade ecstasy, giving it the same legal status as cannabis.

    There are already rising fears that the drug may have harmful long-term effects to users’ health. It was connected to a record number of deaths last year.

    MPs and drug experts were gravely concerned by the Customs and Excise findings this weekend. They cited them as an example of government secrecy on drug policy.

    Meanwhile, Scotland Yard is struggling to explain a massive rise in seizures of Class A drugs. Figures from forensic laboratories delivered to senior officers last week show that seizures of large shipments of cocaine have trebled and those of heroin have doubled in the past year.

    ‘We’re still trying to work out why this has happened,’ said a senior Met source.

    These figures and the new estimate of ecstasy use will fuel claims that drug availability and consumption have spun wildly out of control.

    ‘Any suspicion that the Government is withholding information such as this must be condemned,’ said Oliver Letwin, the Shadow Home Secretary. ‘If we are to formulate rational policies to reduce drug dependence, it is essential the Govern-ment gives us accurate statistics.’

    The intelligence report, prepared last year for a police service that cannot be named for legal reasons, says: ‘A Customs and Excise study has suggested that two million ecstasy pills are consumed each week. Seizure figures, meanwhile, were around 6.3 million 100mg doses in 1999’ – 6 per cent of the estimated amount of the drug used.

    The report says there are 430,000 users, who spend a total of UKP300m a year on ecstasy, perhaps taking between 10 and 15 pills a night.

    John Ramsey, head of toxicology at St George’s Hospital in London, said: ‘I cannot believe that there is anything more than a linear relationship between the number of deaths and the number of users. If traffic doubled, road deaths probably would.’

    He said 27 people died in the UK as a result of taking ecstasy last year, a rise of two-thirds in 12 months.

    Campaigners said the huge level of consumption must be tackled by greater understanding, not criminalisation. Roger Howard, head of Drugscope, a government-backed charity, said: ‘If these new figures are valid, the ecstasy problem seems considerably larger than the Government has estimated.

    ‘It is essential that all the information the Government has on the scale of the problem is made public.’

    A spokeswoman for Customs and Excise denied it was responsible for the report, attributed to it by police intelligence sources. ‘We do not recognise the figure you are referring to,’ she added.

    A Home Office official also denied the Customs estimate existed, and stuck to the old figure of ‘half a million tablets a week’.






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Forums Drugs Ecstasy & MDMA UK: Cover-up Over the Rise in Ecstasy Use – January 2002