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Priory consultant warns of cocaine risks after report of use in Bingo halls

Dr Niall Campbell, Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, has warned of the rise in the use of cocaine among the older population, in an appearance on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

His comments follow a report in The Sun newspaper which said that while bingo halls weren't the first place you'd associate with illegal drug use, its investigation had uncovered more than half of British bingo halls had tested positive for traces of cocaine.

Charities not surprised

Charities said they weren't surprised by the findings as the latest statistics showed that drug abuse among the older generation was a growing problem.

Dr Campbell said: “This is an increasingly serious problem and it is not just about age – it is about social class.”

A recent Government report showed that cocaine use in Britain had trebled in two decades, and was seen as safe and no longer "the preserve of wealthy bankers and celebrities". Its authors said the drug was now "firmly embedded in UK society".

Consequences of cocaine use

Commenting on The Sun report, Dr Campbell told ITV: “Older people were young once and started to smoke weed and do amphetamines in the past, and have moved onto this. People are doing this for a variety of reasons. Everybody wants to try the thing the ‘beautiful people’ are trying. People have used other drugs in earlier years and then thought ‘what’s the harm of doing this?’.”

He said some people were using cocaine as an antidepressant, but he stressed it was “very ineffective” as an antidepressant, and “it’s a very bad idea”.

He also warned of the serious physical consequences of cocaine use to the heart and liver and to people’s mental state. “You can have a cardiac arrest, you can have a stroke; of course it affects your liver and your mental health. It’s a depressant overall.

“The population are using more and more drugs of all sorts. People want something to take them away from the difficulties that they have. But people have got to admit they have a problem before others can do something to help them - and help often isn’t there.”

He also urged more public education around the issue.

The Sun visited 17 venues across the UK and wiped drug-testing swabs over toilet seats and cistern tops. The swabs, similar to those used by police, turn blue if the drug traces are found. Eight of the toilets swabbed tested positive for cocaine.

Cocaine use in the UK

Cocaine is one of the most commonly abused drugs in the UK. More than 2,000 people in their 60s, 70s and 80s sought help for problems relating to substance abuse in 2013 - double the number that were receiving treatment only five years ago.

The dramatic rise is being blamed on those who first experimented with drugs during the 1960s, and have continued to use them on and off over the subsequent decades.

The majority of those requesting help last year suffered from addictions to heroin or crack cocaine, although there were significant numbers who had problems with cannabis, amphetamines and prescription medications.

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