THE POISON GARDEN website      Arum maculatum berries on a Cannabis leaf 

Search thepoisongarden.co.uk:

This free script provided by JavaScript Kit

Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Thursday 28th July 2011

Two reports, published on the same day look at substance use in England and Wales. The British Crime Survey (BCS) has, for some years, undertaken a separate survey of illegal substance use in 16 to 59-year olds. The reason for the age range is that illegal substance use for over 60s is perceived to be too low to produce meaningful survey data and the under 16s are dealt with by the second report.

This second report is prepared by the NHS and covers England only but does include smoking and alcohol as well as classified substances. Both reports can be downloaded as pdfs. The BCS report, ‘Drug Misuse Declared’, is available via the Home Office website and the NHS report on young people is directly available here.

Cannabis sativa

Cannabis sativa

I’ll start with the BCS report. The British Crime Survey was introduced to deal with the problem of unreported crimes and to assess people’s perception of the level of crime. The first survey was undertaken in 1982 and there were eight further surveys between then and 2001. In April 2001, the survey became a continuous operation with results being reported on a financial year basis. This, of course, can lead to problems because people surveyed in May one year may give different responses to those surveyed the following February especially if some high profile crime has been in the news. But, the BCS is thought to be a useful tool for spotting trends rather than a reliable measure of absolute crime levels.

And the same is true of the add-on drugs survey that was first introduced in 1996. The methodology of the survey is that the interviewer who conducts the BCS survey face-to-face asks the interviewee to participate in the drugs survey and then allows them to enter their responses directly into the interviewer’s computer which encrypts them to prevent access by the interviewer.

There are flaws to this method. The person submitting the data may simply lie, though the survey always includes a fictitious substance so that some of the most blatant liars are eliminated. It relies on recall, which may be faulty for all sorts of reasons and because it is conducted in households it misses those on the margins of society. Overall, it is believed that ‘Drug Misuse Declared’ underestimates both total use and more especially use of opiates such as heroin. The report, for example, estimates that no more than 53,000 people used heroin in the previous twelve months but that number is far fewer than the number of problem users who received treatment.

Erythroxylum coca, cocaine

Erythroxylum coca, cocaine

But, as with the main BCS, the results are thought to be consistently wrong year to year so that useful trend data can emerge. For 2010/11, the main survey results show nothing too remarkable in terms of trends. Overall, lifetime prevalence, at 8.8%, is unchanged since last year and, therefore, remains below 1996’s 11.1%. Class A substance use has changed very little over the period going from 2.7% in 1996 to 3.0% now but within that there has been a reduction in hallucinogens like LSD and an increase in powder cocaine. The year on year results suggest that interest in cocaine may have peaked because it is the only substance showing a statistically significant decline in last year prevalence for 2009/10 to 2010/11.

The main change, in the long-term trend, is the continued fall in popularity of cannabis, though it remains by far the most used of all the classified substances. This downward trend applies to all 16-59-year olds and to the 16-24-year old subset and appears to have been unaffected by both the downward classification to Class C and its subsequent return to Class B.

And that is the main finding of this survey; that legal status doesn’t seem to have any bearing on substance use. For the first time, this year, the survey contained questions about mephedrone. When the media first showed an interest in mephedrone, it was widely suggested that its legal status was encouraging new users who either associated ‘legal’ with ‘safe’ or had respect for the law that prevented them from using classified substances.

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy

Papaver somniferum, opium poppy

‘Drug Misuse Declared’, as well as collecting prevalence data on mephedrone showing an annual prevalence of 1.4%, the same as ecstasy, for the whole age range and a 4.4% prevalence amongst 16-24-year olds, the same as powder cocaine, asked questions about other substance use for mephedrone users. This showed that 91% of mephedrone users had also used another classified substance in the preceding year. This suggests that mephedrone was an alternative favoured because of the unreliability of ecstasy, in particular. The idea that ending prohibition would lead to a huge increase in use because there is a large reservoir of people who want to take drugs but are deterred by the law appears not to be so.

Also for the first time, the survey asked about people’s attitudes to substance use. A disappointing 74% of adults say that getting drunk occasionally is acceptable though, thankfully, this falls to 6% who think frequent drunkenness is alright. Interestingly, though annual prevalence of cannabis use is only 8.8%, 33% of people surveyed thought its occasional use was acceptable.  Only 2% thought occasional heroin use was acceptable and 9% felt the same about cocaine. Because these were first time questions it is not possible to say if there is a trend towards finding cannabis use, at least, more acceptable. We’ll have to wait for future surveys to see that.

With the two surveys published on the same day there is a temptation to take the NHS 11-15-year olds’ data and try and read it across to what happens when people reach adulthood. The surveys, however, are conducted in different ways and look at different substances so a direct read across should be avoided. For that reason, I’ll look at the situation for under 16s tomorrow.       

 

Full Entries

2016

Tuesday 25th October 2016
Saturday 20th August 2016
Sunday 6th March 2016
Wednesday 3rd February 2016

2015

Saturday 28th November 2015
Friday 27th November 2015
Monday 17th August 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015
Friday 26th June 2015
Thursday 25th June 2015
Thursday 30th April 2015
Wednesday 29th April 2015
Wednesday 11th March 2015
Tuesday 3rd March 2015
Saturday 28th February 2015
Sunday 22nd February 2015

November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014
Saturday 8th November 2014

October 2014

September 2014

Wednesday 24th September 2014
Monday 1st September 2014

August 2014

Tuesday 26th August 2014
Saturday 16th August 2014
Tuesday 5th August 2014
Friday 1st August 2014

July 2014

Sunday 27th July 2014
Wednesday 23rd July 2014
Sunday 13th July 2014
Sunday 6th July 2014
Tuesday 1st July 2014

June 2014

Wednesday 25th June 2014
Tuesday 24th June 2014
Sunday 22nd June 2014
Monday 9th June 2014
Wednesday 4th June 2014

May 2014

Monday 26th May 2014
Sunday 18th May 2014
Wednesday 14th May 2014

April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014
Saturday 5th April 2014
Thursday 3rd April 2014
Tuesday 1st April 2014

March 2014

Monday 31st March 2014
Tuesday 25th March 2014
Friday 21st March 2014
Monday 17th March 2014
Sunday 16th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Tuesday 11th March 2014
Thursday 6th March 2014
Wednesday 5th March 2014
Saturday 1st March 2014

February 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014
Monday 24th February 2014
Wednesday 19th February 2014
Monday 17th February 2014
Thursday 13th February 2014
Monday 4th February 2014
Monday 3rd February 2014
Saturday 1st February 2014

January 2014

Thursday 28th January 2014
Thursday 23rd January 2014
Friday 17th January 2014
Wednesday 15th January 2014
Monday 13th January 2014
Thursday 9th January 2014
Tuesday 7th January 2014
Wednesday 1st January 2014

December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013
Friday 20th December 2013
Tuesday 17th December 2013
Friday 14th December 2013
Thursday 12th December 2013
Sunday 8th December 2013
Wednesday 4th December 2013
Sunday 1st December 2013

November 2013

Friday 29th November 2013
Wednesday 27th November 2013
Tuesday 26th November 2013
Friday 22nd November 2013
Monday 18th November 2013
Friday 15th November 2013
Thursday 14th November 2013
Sunday 10th November 2013
Thursday 7th November 2013
Wednesday 6th November 2013
Friday 1st November 2013

October 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
Sunday 27th October 2013
Wednesday 23rd October 2013
Monday 21st October 2013
Friday 18th October 2013
Friday 11th October 2013
Wednesday 9th October 2013
Tuesday 8th October 2013
Monday 7th October 2013
Tuesday 1st October 2013

September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
Saturday 28th September 2013
Friday 27th September 2013
Monday 23rd September 2013
Sunday 15th September 2013
Monday 9th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

August 2013

Sunday 8th September 2013
Tuesday 3rd September 2013
Sunday 1st September 2013

Tuesday 27th August 2013
Sunday 25th August 2013
Monday 19th August 2013
Friday 16th August 2013
Tuesday 13th August 2013
Friday 9th August 2013
Friday 2nd August 2013
Thursday 1st August 2013

July 2013

Saturday 27th July 2013
Sunday 21st July 2013
Wednesday 17th July 2013
Monday 15th July 2013
Saturday 13th July 2013
Friday 12th July 2013
Thursday 11th July 2013
Wednesday 10th July 2013
Tuesday 9th July 2013
Saturday 6th July 2013

June 2013

Friday 28th June 2013
Tuesday 25th June 2013
Friday 21st June 2013
Thursday 20th June 2013
Wednesday 19th June 2013
Saturday 15th June 2013
Sunday 9th June 2013
Saturday 8th June 2013
Saturday 1st June 2013
 

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

November 2012

October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

July 2012 blog

June 2012 blog

May 2012 blog

April 2012 blog

March 2012 blog

February 2012 blog

January 2012 blog

December 2011 blog

November 2011 blog

October 2011 blog

September 2011 blog

August 2011 blog

July 2011 blog

June 2011 blog



IMPORTANT NOTE

The POISON GARDEN website is not connected with Alnwick Garden Enterprises Ltd and/or The Alnwick Garden Trust.