In evidence that the battle against cocaine smuggling is being won, the wholesale price has gone up and supply on the streets has dropped.

In welcome news in a report in the Independent the moves by The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) to take on the smugglers before the drug reaches our shores is bearing fruit.

African smuggling routes have been tackled and the authorities in South America have shut down cocaine producing factories. On top of this remote landing strips and those producing ‘cutting agents’ that are mixed with cocaine to make it go further have been targeted. “The extensive use of adulterants or cutting agents such as benzocaine, levamisole. Phenacetin and lidocaine in cocaine meant that targeting such chemicals continued to be an important part of SOCA’s approach. It brought multiple charges against individuals involved in the supply of these chemicals.” says its report.

SOCA is also succeeding in the combat against the importation of heroin from Afghanistan.

The result has been a drop of over 50% in the amount of cocaine seized from just over 85 tonnes in 2008/2009 to 33.5 tonnes last year.

SOCA’s annual report said "Overall, the effects on the UK cocaine market reported last year, where changes in price and purity demonstrated a shortage of high-quality cocaine, were sustained this year. Consistent shortages of high-quality cocaine were seen throughout the UK, and in other significant consumer markets. This forced prices of wholesale cocaine up, particularly in the UK, where it reached the highest ever recorded levels."

But over the same period opium seizure rose from 7.3 tonnes to a staggering 36.9 tonnes. Possibly showing that where a victory over drugs is won in one area losses are experienced in others. It may also lead addicts to hunt for their kicks from new ‘legal highs’ with suppliers stepping in to fill the void.

SOCA’s annual plan for 2010/2011 says that “Class A drugs and organised immigration crime, in that order, should be its top priorities.

Cocaine is a central nervous system stimulant and appetite suppressant that is derived from the leaves of the coca plant. It can be used as a local anaesthetic but has little medical use today. Nowadays it is used as a recreational drug especially in its most notorious form of ‘crack cocaine’.

Cocaine can be taken orally, either retained between the cheek and gum or swallowed as a ‘snow bomb’. It can also be taken by insufflation or ‘snorting’, using the ubiquitous rolled up banknote to direct the powder up the nose to be absorbed by the mucous membrane. The quickest route to a high is by injection into the bloodstream. Freebase or crack cocaine is taken by inhalation usually using a pipe.

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