WWill bankers and other employees of large finance and insurance companies soon be tested for cocaine before they are allowed to enter their offices? Shaun Bailey, the conservative candidate for the London mayoral elections, recently presented this plan. The response was initially mixed, but now Interior Minister Priti Patel has also supported the idea. She supports “all methods that help curb drug crime,” she said. In doing so, she adopted Bailey’s argument that “middle-class consumers” feed the drug black market, which also uses children as dealers and also promotes youth gang crime.
Patel’s predecessor Sajid Javid and the head of Scotland Yard, Cressida Dick, had expressed a similar opinion. Many experts, however, do not seem convinced. Science has no evidence that Bailey’s approach would work, said Ian Hamilton, a professor of addiction at York University. “Those who take and trade cocaine are not the same as those who take and trade crack cocaine and heroin.” But only the second group is associated with violence, especially the rampant stabbing in London.
“The goal is a culture change”
Bailey wants to oblige companies with more than 250 employees to have anonymized tests carried out. The intention is not to fire or expose employees, Bailey said. The city administration will only present an annual overview, which contains the companies with the lowest and highest cocaine use. “The goal is a cultural change.” It is uncertain whether the initiative will come about. The elections will take place next May, and so far Bailey, a Brit with Jamaican roots, is well behind incumbent Sadiq Khan in the polls.
Cocaine use in London has been the subject of constant studies. With the help of wastewater samples, researchers from London’s King’s College calculated last year that the capital city consumes 23 kilos of pure cocaine every day. That equates to more than 500,000 “lines” per day. Because the concentration in the water shows only a slightly increased consumption on weekends, the researchers speak of an “everyday drug”. According to King’s College, cocaine use in the city of eight million people is the highest in Europe – higher than in Amsterdam, Berlin and Barcelona combined. In relation to the number of inhabitants, however, Amsterdam and Antwerp take precedence over London.
A recent study by the same university in March suggested hopes that consumption in London may decline. The concentration in wastewater had fallen by a third in the past three years, the scientists found, but spoke of the need to corroborate the findings with additional samples at other times of the year. The widespread thesis that the eels in the Thames go nuts because of the cocaine content in the river water has also started to swim. The much-cited study from Naples, which had found “hyperactive behavior” of eels in waters with traces of cocaine, operated with test amounts that far exceeded those in the Thames, said James Robson of the Sea Life Aquarium in London. “There aren’t very many disco-dancing eels on the bottom of the Thames.”