Cocaine on our streets ‘more lethal than ever before’

A former drug addict turned recovery leader says that increased purity of the Class A drug is making it more dangerous to take

Cocaine being sold on our streets is now MORE LETHAL than ever before, a former addict turned recovery leader has warned. Higher levels of drug purity combined with widespread availability and cheaper prices could be behind the deaths of 17 young people from cocaine use in the Hyndburn area in the last nine months, it is believed. Former cocaine user Phil Galpin, who works in Accrington for Red Rose Recovery supporting addicts, told the Observer it has never been easier to buy cocaine. He said: “The fact that the purity is increasing so much is partly accountable for all the deaths that have been attributed to cocaine recently. “Hand in hand with greater purity comes greater risk of overdose. The dangers are also much higher for sporadic or binge users who don’t have the tolerance of a regular user – people die. “The price has come down dramatically for cocaine and the availability is widespread now, even more than when I was in active addiction.” Phil said many recreational users will not realise they are addicted. He added: “The availability has never been as easy as now to purchase drugs. We have had service users who have dealers who do home deliveries. I think all of those factors are leading people to fall into addiction almost blindly. “All the demographics are affected by cocaine and it’s really important that we have this campaign highlighting the dangers and how to access help when addiction takes grip. I think it will make a difference.” Mr Galpin, who is east Lancashire team leader for Red Rose Recovery, on Cannon Street, first took illicit drugs at 12, and began abusing crack-cocaine, psychoactive drugs and amphetamines in his teens. He said: “I would wake up on Sunday not knowing where I was. Sometimes I’d be covered in my own blood, sometimes it would be other people’s.” Now 40, he says when he tried to kick his drug habit, he was surprised to find cocaine the hardest to quit. He said: “I still don’t know the point at which my recreational use became addiction. “It’s a silent assassin, you will think that you can stop at any point but then you find out you can’t. “With increased purity the highs are higher and the lows are lower, which increases the possibility of becoming an addict. It’s a perfect storm.”

Campaign to highlight toll on our communities

The Observer has launched a campaign to highlight the devastating toll that cocaine is taking on our communities. We have joined forces with coroner Michael Singleton after he warned that deaths caused by this evil drug have reached epidemic levels. In the last nine months alone the number of people officially recorded as having lost their lives in the Hyndburn area as a result of using cocaine has risen to 17. The youngest was 16, the oldest just 33. These are just the cases to have reached the coroner and it is thought that the actual number could be much higher. Mr Singleton is at a loss to explain why this epidemic is occurring here and now in Accrington, but it is thought increased availability or a drop in price could be to blame. We are calling on all sections of the Hyndburn community to pull together to take this evil drug off our streets. So please watch out for signs of cocaine use, make sure your loved ones are aware of the dangers and give the police the information they need to bring down the dealers profiting from this deadly powder.

What you can do to help

l Educate yourself and others – National organisations such as Frank offer detailed explanations of what the short-term and long-term effects of drug use are and the risks. l Talk openly about it – Speak to friends and family and create an honest dialogue. l Spot signs of drug use – Cocaine can change people’s personality. In the short term cocaine can make a user feel confident and wide awake. But repeated use can cause agitated behaviour, mood swings, severe addiction and heart attacks. Written at Cocaine