*PRESS RELEASE* UK is the world’s biggest exporter of legal heroin and cocaine

Press Release

17 April 2018

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UK is the world’s biggest exporter of legal heroin and cocaine


A report from the UN’s International Narcotics Control Board has revealed the UK is the world’s biggest exporter, importer and consumer of legal cocaine for medical use, and the world’s biggest manufacturer and exporter of heroin for medical use.


In 2016, according to the UN report,


  • The UK imported 330kg, exported 56kg, and consumed 90kg of legal cocaine for medical use in 2016.

  • The UK accounts for 86% of global legal cocaine imports, and almost 50% of global cocaine consumption for medical purposes.

  • The UK is the world’s largest manufacturer of legal heroin, manufacturing 627kg, over half the global total of 1.1 tons

  • The UK was also the largest exporter of legal heroin during 2016: exporting 534.5 kg of heroin, (84.9% of the global total).


Commenting on the report, Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst at Transform said:


“The Government doesn’t advertise the fact that the UK is the world leader in the legal cocaine and heroin industries. But what is striking is not how successful the UK is in these legal medical markets, but how very different they are from the parallel illegal trade in the same drugs for non-medical use”


“With the UK’s legal heroin and cocaine there is no deforestation and toxic aerial spraying; no funding for paramilitary or terrorist groups; no enrichment of violent cartels; no exploitation of impoverished drug couriers; no street dealing and gang violence; and no adulterated drugs or sharing of dirty needles in back streets. These problems are entirely created by prohibition, and they disappear when these drugs are strictly regulated and taxed.”  


“Drug prohibition doesn’t get rid of drugs - it just hands the market to criminals and makes it vastly more dirty and dangerous. We know what effective regulation looks like - we only have to look at our world-beating legal industry.”

“We have a choice: we can leave the trade in the hands of organised criminals and unregulated dealers, or we make them available through doctors, pharmacists or licensed retailers. There’s no third option where heroin and cocaine magically disappear.”





Steve Rolles, Senior Policy Analyst, Transform Drug Policy Foundation: 07980 213 943 steve@tdpf.org.uk

Ben Campbell, Communications Officer, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, (+44) 0117 325 0295, ben@tdpf.org.uk


Notes to editors

  1. Transform Drug Policy Foundation is a UK and Mexico based think tank campaigning for the legal regulation of drugs www.tdpf.org.uk

  2. INCB report. Details for heroin on pages 35-36;  details for cocaine on pages 44-45. http://www.incb.org/documents/Narcotic-Drugs/Technical-Publications/2017/7_Part_2_comments_E.pdf

  3. Background information on opium poppies grown in England https://philipstrange.wordpress.com/2015/09/03/the-opium-fields-of-england/