Reports of skyrocketing crack cocaine has been attributed to the drug becoming "more acceptable" and "fashionable", a government review stated on Tuesday.
An inquiry from the Home Office and Public Health England (PHE) found that students, clubbers and even professionals have become a "cohort" of crack users. Investigators have cited several possible factors such as diminishing police forces and aggressive marketing campaigns, including bulk text messages to heroin and crack users.
A service user from the study said that crack usage was "out of hand; it's an epidemic. Use is skyrocketing".
Crack use was also "beginning to become more acceptable, even fashionable among groups who would not previously have taken it", according to service users in the report.
It added: "This included professionals, students and clubbers. In one area with a large university student population, there was a view that dealers were successfully infiltrating these groups."
— Public Health England (@PHE_uk) March 25, 2019
One service user said: "My daughter is 17 and her friends are using it at the parties she goes to."
"Out of town" gangs from cities such as Manchester, London, Liverpool and Birmingham facilitated deliveries in the three areas.
"Gangs are sending people down from London to put them in hotels and get them grafting for a couple of weeks," one responder said.
Fewer police in service, in addition to diminishing dedicated drugs squads, have also fuelled the rise of crack usage. "Participants in several areas said that deals were often carried out quite publicly, and some dealers made little effort to hide their activities," investigators said.
— Dave Manson (@DaveMansonUK) March 26, 2019
PHE director for drugs, alcohol, tobacco and justice Rosanna O'Connor said that the report would not surprise "those working on the front line, who will have seen first-hand this surge in crack use in their communities".
Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability said: "The Government is committed to tackling the illicit drugs trade, protecting the most vulnerable and helping those with a drug dependency to recover."