The English city of Bristol has been branded the 'cocaine capital of Europe' following a study that traced the drug's usage across the continent.
The study, penned by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, examined wastewater in the sewage systems of cities across Europe in order to further understanding of drug-taking habits among Europeans. In order to measure the cocaine levels, the researchers tested sewage water for levels of benzoylecgonine (BE), which is the substance the body produces after ingesting and breaking down cocaine.
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The researches discovered that the average daily level of BE in Bristol's wastewater was around 969.2mg per 1,000 people in 2018, up from 754.7mg in 2017. Amsterdam recorded the second highest figure in 2018, with 932.4mg, followed by Zurich (856.0mg), Antwerp Zuid (771.8mg) and Barcelona (733.2mg).
The researchers analysed wastewater from 73 cities in 20 European countries, which, they say, covers a total population of approximately 46 million people.
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The research team wrote in their report that, "the BE loads observed in wastewater indicate that cocaine use remains highest in western and southern European cities, in particular in cities in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. Very low levels were found in the majority of the eastern European cities studied, but the most recent data show signs of increases."
"The paper suggested a range of factors could be influencing an increase in cocaine residues detected in several cities. While it may indicate that more people are consuming cocaine, it may mean that there is greater use of cocaine by the same people," the report added.
In addition to cocaine, the report also kept an eye out for indications of spikes in usage of other drugs. For example, it found an increase in Methamphetamine use in northern Europe, particularly Norway and Finland, as well as in eastern Europe, Cyprus and Spain.
The report's release comes amidst an increasingly loud national conversation across the UK about the adverse impact that drugs are having on communities. Some, such as Dr Michael McBride of the Department of Health have been quoted as saying that they believe the UK government should invest in so-called 'consumption rooms' which act as safe spaces where users of drugs like Heroin can inject safely away from the public space. According to UK government statistics between 2017-2018 usage of 'class A' drugs had increased compared to the 2016-2017 period. During the former, around 1.1 million people between the ages of 16-59 had taken a class A drug at least once. During that time, cocaine was said to be the second most popular drug with cannabis clocking in at number one.
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