The UK is becoming an increasingly important hub for the importation of cocaine into the rest of Europe, the United Nations drugs body – led by St George’s drug policy expert Professor Hamid Ghodse – has warned.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are the traditional routes for the drug's entry to the EU, but the latest Annual Report by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said there had been a recent surge in cases of the UK being used as point of entry.

INCB president Prof Ghodse – director of the International Centre for Drug Policy at St George’s – explained: "It is not only the UK but the Netherlands also, Portugal also and Spain also. Traditionally they were the hub of the importing to Europe but now the UK is also one of the countries. Cocaine comes to the UK to be diverted to the rest of Europe."

The rise in the importance of the UK as a cocaine hub was recognised after an increase in the number of seizures taking place at ports of entry, he said.

Cocaine trafficking via the UK may have increased because of recent tightening of drug enforcement in countries such as Spain and Portugal, said Prof Ghodse. He added: "Drug traffickers are extremely clever. Whenever enforcement increases in one place they try to go to another place."

There had also been a significant and "very odd" increase in cocaine being imported through the Balkans as traffickers looked to exploit new entry points.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain accounted for about 70 per cent of cocaine seized in Europe in 2008, although they accounted for only 25 per cent of consumption of the drug.

The INCB annual report also warned that the use of designer drugs was continuing to escalate. Mr Ghodse called for a generic ban on the narcotics, and acknowledged the work the UK had done on controlling substances such as the designer drug mephedrone and the cannabis mimic 'spice'.

He explained: "Given the health risks posed by the abuse of designer drugs, we urge governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances. The recommendation is that for all of the newly emerging drugs, the designer drugs, it is always good to have a generic ban on it as a preventive issue."

He said there were at least 15 designer drugs being used in Europe and 51 in Japan.

The report also revealed that more than 80 per cent of the world's population has little or no access to pain-relieving drugs.

Prof Ghodse said the situation was "extremely unfair and extremely problematic".

The annual report revealed that the majority of the world's legal medical drugs were used by 10 per cent of the world's population, typically in rich countries in the west.

The US accounted for 56 per cent of the world's morphine consumption in 2009 alone.

Mr Ghodse said: "90 per cent of the licit drugs are consumed by 10 per cent of the world's population, in the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and some European countries."

The report found there was enough raw material to meet the demand for all patients needing opioid analgesics – opiate-based pain killers such as codeine and morphine.

But numerous barriers preventing access to the drugs were in place, such as lack of education of health professionals, legal constraints, distribution difficulties and an absence of comprehensive health policies.

Prof Ghodse added: "A delicate balance needs to be maintained between ensuring equitable access to such medicines and ensuring that these substances are not diverted for illicit purposes."