How many drugs are seized by customs?

DrugWise infographic on drug seizures (PDF)

Every year the UK Border Force intercept hundreds of shipments and 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 information below shows 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, In England and Wales in the financial year ending March 2023:

Police forces and Border Force made a total of 191,623 drug seizures, a 1% increase compared with the previous year (188,929). Police forces accounted for 87% of the number of seizures made, whereas Border Force accounted for a much larger proportion of the quantity of drugs seized. Border Force seized the highest number of total seizures on record (25,834), a 24% increase from the previous year.

The number of powder cocaine seizures by police forces and Border Force increased by 4%, compared to the previous year (from 18,228 to 18,978 seizures). This is the highest number of powder cocaine seizures recorded since 2009 to 2010.

The quantity of heroin seized decreased by 33%, from 1.41 tonnes in the year ending March 2022 to 0.95 tonnes in the year ending March 2023. This ended a period of large quantities of heroin being seized between year ending March 2020 to year ending March 2022, bringing the latest figures to pre-2019 to 2020 levels. The total number of heroin seizures made also decreased, from 6,814 to 6,835 seizures (-6%), following a downward trend since 2020 to 2021.

Border Force seized the highest number of total cannabis seizures on record (20,211 seizures). 

Police forces seized the largest quantity of ketamine on record (500kg). This was a 189% increase from the previous year. Border Force seized the second largest quantity of ketamine on record (934kg), after the peak in 2021 to 2022.

The total quantity of ecstasy seized increased by 161% (0.60 million doses to 1.56 million doses). This is the first increase of the total quantity of ecstasy seizures since 2018 to 2019, despite a 36% reduction in the total number of ecstasy seizures made (2,474 to 1,576 seizures).

Updated January 2024