How many drugs are seized by customs?

DrugWise infographic on drug seizures (PDF)

Every year the UK Border Force intercept hundreds of shipments or people bringing illicit drugs into the country.

The police seize drugs already in the country, either smuggled, grown or manufactured here. The number and quantity of these seizures are recorded and published yearly by the Home Office in the form of statistical bulletins.

While the bulletins show what drugs are being reported and seized at the ports and on the streets, they reveal more about the activities of customs and the police than they do about what is actually available. For a full discussion of how these statistics should be interpreted see What do drug seizures tell us about availability?

The tables below show what was seized recently by the UK Border Force and police. Though the police make more seizures (hence arrests), these tend to be smaller quantities. Border Force seizures, on the other hand, tend to be much larger – the biggest exception being cannabis plants, which are mostly homegrown in the UK.

According to Home Office statistics published in November 2016 there were 148,553 drug seizures in England and Wales in 2015/16 (including estimated figures). This represents an 11% decrease compared with the previous year (167,059) and the fourth consecutive annual fall. Over the same time period, there was a 13% decrease in the number of police recorded drug offences, which is highly correlated with the number of drug seizures.

Seizures by police forces decreased by 11% between 2014/15 and 2015/16 (from 160,933 to 143,248) and seizures made by Border Force decreased by 13% (from 6,126 seizures to 5,305).

The majority of seizures (96%) were made by police forces in England and Wales; however, as mentioned above, Border Force seizures tended to be for larger quantities. In terms of quantity, Border Force seized 90% of all cannabis resin, 89% of anabolic steroids, 89% of herbal cannabis, 84% of ketamine, and 83% of cocaine.

DrugNumber of seizures
2015/16 in England
and Wales
Cannabis (overall)109,527
Herbal cannabis97,218
Cannabis plants9,578
Cannabis resin5,429
Unknown substances7,354


DrugQuantity of drugs seized in England and Wales, 2016
Ecstasy801,294 doses
Cannabis plants393,702 plants
Anabolic steroidsalmost 5 million doses
Benzodiazepines246,544 doses


Updated January 2017