Europe's war on drugs continues unabated, but doesn't seem to have much effect as a new scientific study analyzing wastewater shows an increase in illicit drug use in European cities.
Earlier we wrote about the report that was recently published in response to a wastewater study. The latest results of the joint study conducted by the SCORE group and the European Observatory for drugs and addiction (EMCDDA) have detected metabolites of cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, MDMA and ketamine.
Understanding drug use
The research, conducted in 104 cities in 21 countries, revealed an increase in the detection of cocaine and methamphetamine in European wastewater. “Today's findings paint a picture of a drug problem that is both widespread and complex, with all six substances found in nearly every location. Wastewater research is providing us with increasing insight into the dynamics of drug use and supply,” said director Alexis Goosdeel in a statement.
Mainly cocaine was found in all cities included in the study. The rising numbers indicate wide availability and use by the general public. More than half of the 66 cities with data for both 2021 and 2022 showed an increase in cocaine residues, the majority of which belong to Western and Southern Europe. Cities from Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal showed the highest prevalence of cocaine in their wastewater samples.
The Swiss cities of Basel, Geneva and Zurich also contain some of the highest residues of cocaine metabolites. The increase in Dutch, Belgian and Spanish cities can be attributed to increasing cocaine trafficking through the ports of those cities, according to an analysis of the EU drug market published in 2022.
Increase in seizures
Belgian ports seized the most cocaine in Europe in 2020, almost ten times more than in 2010; followed by the Dutch and Spanish ports. Despite the annual increase in cocaine seizures, the concomitant increase in cocaine detection in wastewater implies greater availability for use.
“We now face a growing threat of a more diverse and dynamic drug market, driven by closer cooperation between European and international criminal organizations,” added Goosdeel. The most recent waste water analysis has also shown that cannabis remains the most commonly used illicit drug in Europe, despite a drop in detection rates in many cities. However, the trend shows decreases in 15 cities, while the cannabis metabolite in wastewater from 18 cities increased compared to 2021.
The study also showed an increase in cannabis and cocaine amounts during the weekends, which the study says may be due to increased recreational use. However, the study cannot provide information on the frequency of use and the purity of the drugs. Despite its limitations, the annual multi-city study is a good starting point, Goosdeel added, saying the EMCDDA is “encouraged by its growing potential for targeting and evaluating local public health responses and policy initiatives.”
Source: Euronews (EN)