You can tell a hell of a lot about a city from its wastewater. Rates of disease, Covid and pollution, to give a few examples. But did you also know that wastewater can be used to measure the popularity of certain recreational drugs? Well, it can. Wastewater epidemiology (that’s the science’s fancy name) can give scientists an idea of which drugs are being used in certain cities, and how much is being consumed.
The EMCDDA, the EU’s drug agency, has released its latest report on drug usage in 25 EU countries. Taking daily samples in 75 different cities over a week between March and May 2021, the study analysed wastewater for traces of five drugs: cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA/ecstasy and cannabis. And it picked up some pretty juicy stats. Here’s a drug-by-drug breakdown:
While coke has long been pretty popular throughout western and southern European countries (and remains so), it’s seeing a big rise in the east now, too. But where takes the most? Antwerp in Belgium had the highest rates of cocaine use last year.
Historically meth has been most popular in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, but it’s seeing increased usage across the Continent, from Finland and Norway to Turkey and Cyprus – though it’s still the least prominent of all the drugs here. The EU’s meth capital in 2021 was Ostrava in the Czech Republic.
Consumption of speed, Adderall and other amphetamines is concentrated in the north and east of Europe, with the likes of Sweden, Finland, Belgium and the Netherlands all showing the highest amounts of residue. Sandviken in Sweden used amphetamines the most last year.
Weed is different to the other drugs in this list because in many places it’s somewhat legal. Barcelona has the highest weed usage by a very, very long way – but it’s worth noting that in the Catalan capital, as in the rest of the Spain, cannabis is decriminalised for personal use. Other countries like Croatia, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Portugal also had high cannabis rates.
MDMA was the only drug that decreased in use in 2021 compared to previous studies, though this is likely the party drug wasn’t used as much during Covid lockdowns. It’s still most popular in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium and Norway. Not-that-surprisingly, Amsterdam used the most MDMA.
To find out more and read the study in full, visit the EMCDDA website here.
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