By politics.co.uk staff
The government's independent drugs advisers have launched a review on cocaine, amid concern about the drug's growing use.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will launch a review after meeting with home secretary Alan Johnson last month. It describes the drug's continuing prevalence as "deeply concerning".
According to the British Crime Survey cocaine use has increased from 0.6% of 16- to 59-year-olds in 1996 to three per cent in 2008/09. Among 16- to 24-year-olds, use has jumped from 1.3% to 6.6% over the same period.
A letter from the ACMD chair, Professor Les Iversen, to Mr Johnson released today also noted that evidence suggested the drug's purity levels have been declining.
"The ACMD propose to carry out a review of the harms associated with cocaine and provide you with wider advice on how these might be reduced together with suggestions for further research in this area," Prof Iversen wrote.
"I believe that promulgating such advice may help to counteract the increasingly common misapprehension that cocaine is a relatively safe drug."
Cocaine is a class A drug. The review will not advise on its reclassification.
Today's announcement is one of the first high-profile interventions by the newly-formed ACMD, after its former chair Professor David Nutt quit following a row over the reclassification of cannabis.
Five other members walked out in support soon afterwards, undermining the body's credibility. Prof Nutt had thought "scaring kids" would stop them using drugs were "probably wrong" and claimed taking ecstasy was less dangerous than riding a horse.