Cocaine use among people from wealthier homes in England and Wales is at its highest in nearly a decade, official figures indicate.
In 2017/18, 3.4% of 16 to 59-year-olds living in households with an income of at least £50,000 reported taking the drug in powder form the previous year.
The percentage was up slightly compared with the year before when it stood at 3.2%, and is the highest recorded since 3.8% in 2008/09.
The £50,000 and over category is the highest of five household income groups in the Home Office’s annual drug misuse report.
Statistics published alongside the latest study show powder cocaine use among those in the richest bracket has increased from 2.2% in 2014/15 to 3.4% in 2017/18.
By contrast, the proportion of 16 to 59-year-olds in the lowest household income category – under £10,000 – who reported taking the substance went down from 3.4% to 2% over the same period.
Drug use has come under the spotlight in recent weeks amid warnings the demand for illegal substances is helping fuel spiralling levels of knife crime and violence.
On Tuesday, Britain’s most senior police officer hit out at middle class cocaine users who worry about issues like the environment and fair trade but believe there is “no harm” in taking the class A drug.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “There is this challenge that there are groups of middle class people who will sit round happily thinking about global warming and fair trade and environmental protection and all sorts of things, organic food, but think there’s no harm in taking a bit of cocaine.
“Well there is. There is misery throughout the supply chain.”
Her remarks followed similar interventions by London mayor Sadiq Khan and Justice Secretary David Gauke.
Powder cocaine was the second most commonly used drug in England and Wales in 2017/18, according to the Home Office report published last week.
The percentage of adults reporting that they took the drug the previous year was 2.6%, equating to around 875,000 people.
Trends in cocaine use are prone to fluctuation from year to year, the report added.