How many drugs are seized by customs?

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 published in December 2020:

Police forces and Border Force made a total of 183,068 drug seizures in England and Wales in year ending March 2020, a 20% increase compared with the previous year (153,136). This is the second consecutive annual increase in seizures, reversing a downward trend since year ending March 2012.

Cannabis was the most commonly seized drug, which was involved in 71% of all drug seizures in England and Wales in the year ending March 2020. The second most commonly seized drug was cocaine, which was involved in 10% of all seizures.

Seizures of cocaine by police forces and Border Force increased by 10% from year ending March 2019 but the quantity of cocaine seized decreased by 5,371kg, from 9,645kg in that year to 4,274kg in the latest year.

Seizures of crack by police forces and Border Force increased by 7% since year ending March 2019, the highest number of seizures since year ending March 2008. The quantity of crack seized increased by 35% and is the highest amount seized since year ending March 2005

In the year ending March 2020, 2 million doses of ecstasy were seized. This is a 9% decrease from the previous year when 2.2 million doses were seized, but is higher than in the other years of the past decade.

There were 178,193 doses of LSD seized in the year ending March 2020, a 230% increase compared to the previous year (54,070 doses). This was the highest quantity of LSD seized since the year ending March 20053 when 1,137,000 doses were recorded.

There were 27 seizures of fentanyl and 5 seizures of fentanyl analogues by police forces and Border Force in the year ending March 2020.

Seizures of Class B drugs increased by 11% between years ending March 2019 and 2020 with 94% of all Class B seizures involving at least one form of cannabis.

Between the years ending March 2019 and 2020, there was a 51% increase in the quantity of benzodiazepines seized, from 0.6 million to 0.9 million doses.

There was a 50% decrease in the quantity of anabolic steroids seized between the years ending March 2019 and 2020, from 2.7 million to 1.3 million doses.

There were 2,667 seizures of NPS by police forces in the year ending March 2020, a decrease of 2% from the previous year when the number of seizures was 2,717.

The most commonly seized types of NPS by police forces in the year ending March 2020 were synthetic cannabinoids (2,055 seizures), other NPS (275 seizures), NPS powders (97 seizures) and nitrous oxide (241 seizures).