The Cancer of Cocaine; It's No Longer Just City Wine Bars and Celebrity Haunts Where Cocaine Is Found. Now, a Chilling Mail Investigation Proves the Drug Has Spread to Every Level of British Society

By Goodwin, Jo-Ann | Daily Mail (London), September 3, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Cancer of Cocaine; It's No Longer Just City Wine Bars and Celebrity Haunts Where Cocaine Is Found. Now, a Chilling Mail Investigation Proves the Drug Has Spread to Every Level of British Society


Goodwin, Jo-Ann, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: JO-ANN GOODWIN

these figures are almost certainly a gross underestimate.

Like heroin, cocaine is a Class A drug. But no stigma is now attached to it.

Turning up at a party with a gramme of 'charlie' in your pocket is the equivalent of bringing a bottle.

No one objects - especially if you're willing to offer it around.

Nor is the drug purely an urban problem - as our survey indicates - cocaine has spread way beyond its traditional market of party girls, celebs and young professionals.

'The middle classes take it for recreation,' says Det Supt Barry Phillips of Operation Trident, the Metropolitan Police initiative against Yardie drug gangs. 'It's now a cancer sweeping through the country and spreading across all communities.' His statement seems extreme - even alarmist. But as our investigation shows, Det Supt Phillips is simply dealing with the reality of the cocaine culture taking hold in Britain.

The investigation was undertaken in partnership with Scientifics - a leading analysis and consulting laboratory used by police forces for work on forensic evidence.

Cocaine is a sociable drug, usually taken outside the home. We wanted to find out what sort of places people went to indulge their cocaine habit.

Experts at Scientifics suggested that toilets were the best places for taking samples because, on a night out, they usually offered privacy and a locked door.

Individually sealed testing kits were prepared in sterile conditions. The kits contained a pair of surgical gloves, a sealed swab and a pre-sealed tube of methanol solution.

Taking a fresh kit each time, we collected samples from the toilet seats, cistern tops and surrounds in each venue. Once collected, the sample was sealed, numbered, tagged and signed for before being sent to the Scientifics laboratory for analysis.

WE WENT to great lengths to make the investigation as fair as possible. The samples were taken in the quiet month of August. Rather than aiming for Saturday nights we concentrated on weekdays.

We chose a mix of restaurants, pubs, wine bars, private clubs and disco bars catering for various age groups. No nightclubs were included.

Getting the samples was tricky as nowadays toilets are often closely policed. Many managers are becoming wise to what some people are getting up on their premises and, to their credit, do what they can to stop it.

Many bars are using 'half ACHILLING Daily Mail investigation today reveals the horrifying extent of the cocaine epidemic which is gripping Britain. To discover how deeply the drug is now embedded in all levels of British society, the Mail deployed the latest and most rigorous scientific techniques. The results are, to say the least, disturbing.

We tested for traces of cocaine on surfaces in bars, pubs, restaurants and private clubs catering for a mix of ages of backgrounds, around the country.

The test was able to reveal the recent presence of cocaine in that location.

According to latest British Crime Survey figures, 622,000 people take 'coke' on a regular basis. Significantly usage is on the increase among 16 to 19-year-olds. But anyone involved with policing the drug or dealing with its effects knows that doors' on their toilet cubicles.

Sawn off to shoulder level and hung with 2ft of floor clearance, these doors would reveal occupants standing up to take a line of cocaine.

Other precautions include the removal of toilet seat lids, boxing in the cistern with a steeply sloping top and the increasing use of fearsome toilet attendants who act as security guards.

Patrolling the cubicles, they check beneath the doors to spot anyone whose feet are facing the wrong way, or cubicles with double occupancy - many, it seems, like to share their drugs with a friend.

PHOTOGRAPHER Nick Stern and I had to process the samples quietly and quickly. …

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