Pubdate: Sun, 23 Jun 2002
Source: Sunday Telegraph (UK)
Copyright: Telegraph Group Limited 2002
Author: Thair Shaikh
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


Crack cocaine use among middle-class people is increasing at an alarming 
rate, leading drug charities have warned.

The charities have found that increasing numbers of professional people are 
being treated for crack addiction. One London centre estimates that 40 per 
cent of its patients are from a professional background. Addicts have 
included solicitors, local government officers, estate agents, chefs, 
artists, City executives and media workers.

Counsellors believe that the spread of the drug is the result of an 
aggressive campaign by dealers, who are persuading middle-class cocaine 
users - a large and affluent customer base - to switch to crack.

In recent years millions of professional people worldwide have tried 
cocaine, believing it to be less addictive than alcohol or tobacco.

Last month Mike Fuller, the deputy assistant commissioner of the 
Metropolitan Police, described London as "the cocaine capital of the world".

The spread of crack among middle-class users will be highlighted at a 
national conference organised by the Home Office, which starts tomorrow in 

One of the conference speakers will be Daniel Taettmeyer, of the Blenheim 
Project, a drug rehabilitation charity in west London."There is no doubt 
that crack is affecting every socio-economic area," he said last week. "We 
are seeing people from every walk of life."

Aidan Gray, the national co-ordinator of Coca, an organisation that 
supports counsellors working with crack users, said: "Drug service agencies 
have been concerned mainly with helping unemployed people and I think this 
has to change now.

He said: "A lot of people still don't understand the dangers of crack."

Crack is a chemically altered form of cocaine made by heating it with 
baking soda and water. Normally smoked, it is extremely addictive and after 
an initial high, the user can feel anxiety, depression, fatigue and 
paranoia. The drug has strong links with risk-taking behaviour and violence.

Adam Frankland, a counsellor with Turning Point, a London-based drug 
charity, sees the effects the drug has on users every day and has also 
noticed an increase in its use by professional people.

He said: "There has been a definite increase in the number of middle-class 
people taking crack cocaine. It has encroached into all areas of society. 
More than 40 per cent of people we see with crack problems are professionals."

Mr Frankland believes that dealers are pushing crack because it fetches 
twice the price of cocaine. A gram of cocaine in central London currently 
sells for UKP50, while the same amount of crack will fetch between UKP100 
and UYP110.

He said: "Dealers are pretending not to have any cocaine on them and are 
encouraging users to try crack. They sell it cheaply to begin with or give 
it away."

Emma Winward, 28, a public school-educated journalist and former addict, 
was first introduced to crack this way.

Four years ago, a dealer who she trusted, and from whom she had bought 
cocaine, suggested that she try the more addictive drug. Nothing in her 
background could have prepared her for crack's effect.

She said: "He told me, 'Have this one rock.' I remember smoking it and 
thinking, 'Wow, this is amazing.' Twenty minutes later I wanted another 
fix. From then on there was not a moment when I didn't want it."

"It was awful. The obsession was like an illness, like a hurricane. I began 
selling my possessions and then I would beg on the streets. At the end of 
it I looked like a skeleton. I thought I was going to die."

After trying a number of private rehabilitation clinics, she eventually 
weaned herself off the drug with the help of Narcotics Anonymous.

She said:"I should be dead really, or a prostitute, but I have my life back 
now and work again. Living isn't a battle anymore."

A spokesman for the Home Office said that the Government had not undertaken 
any research into crack cocaine use among people from different social 
backgrounds but was working with agencies to tackle the problem.
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