Latest data reveal drug-taking habits in over 50 European cities

Article published on Jan. 7, 2017
Article published on Jan. 7, 2017

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

In March 2016, Score Group PLC in alliance with EMCDDA (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction), conducted the largest ever wastewater analysis in the European Nations. 

It was conducted in more than 50 cities in 18 countries across Europe.

The purpose of the project was to investigate the drug intake patterns of its residents.

The Methodology

For a week, wastewater samples taken from the drainage basin areas of the wastewater treatment plant were analyzed daily.

The samples were taken from cities like London, Nicosia, Oslo, Lisbon, and such. The specimens accounted for wastewater from an estimated 25 million of the populace.

The wastewater was tested for the presence of predominantly four illicit drugs, namely, methamphetamine, ecstasy (MDMA), cocaine, and amphetamine.

Wastewater Analysis: An Emerging Scientific Discipline

Epidemiology based on wastewater is an emerging scientific discipline.

It can soon conduct an almost real-time analysis of banned drug use to gauge drug-taking trends based on population levels.

Taking samples from a known origin of wastewater like a sewage outlet, scientists can easily quantify the amount of drugs that have been used by a particular community.

They can approximate the level of illicit drug and their respective metabolites expelled in urine.  

Though SCORE has been organizing such projects since 2011, the results of such monitoring wastewater campaigns have been published for the first time.

This allows for timely tracking of drug-taking trends in the population.

Regional Drug Flow

The report laid down a clear picture of variation in drug usage based on geography.

  • Methamphetamine was traditionally restricted to a low use in Slovakia and Czech Republic. Its presence can now be felt in northern Europe and East Germany, especially Finland.

  • Cocaine is scoring the highest in southern and western European cities of UK, Spain, Netherlands, and Belgium. East European cities have a negligible cocaine presence.

  • MDMA continued on its 2015 pattern in 2016 as well. With the increase in availability as well as the quality of MDMA, it is widely present in all the European cities.

  • Highest levels of amphetamine were found in the north European cities. Its presence is comparatively lower in southern Europe.

  • Analysis of weekly drug use suggested increased use of MDMA and cocaine on weekends, whereas use of methamphetamine is spread evenly through the week.

EMCDDA has adopted a multi-faceted approach to monitoring drugs because a single indicator cannot reveal the true and complete illustration of the drug plight in the region.

Wastewater analysis is an addition to the epidemiological toolkit used by the scientists to generate timely information regarding the use of various substances.

Alexis Goosdeel, Director of EMCDDA, commented that ‘wastewater analysis has proved to be a useful addition to the already existing tools that were being used to monitor drug use’.

He further said that ‘the data delivered by this method is a timely indicator in the changing drug-use landscape’.

He believes that ‘timely detection of drug use and its classification based on geography can better the response time by treatment and health services’.

He was happy that SCORE could release the results in the year the campaign was conducted.

He felt that this could help the drug prevention and rehabilitative agencies reach out recovery needs of the treatment as per the drug-use trend.

In 2017, EMCDDA would be jointly hosting the 3rd global conference on analysis based on wastewater called the ‘Testing the waters 2017’ at the Lisbon Addictions 2017 Conference.