​Flushed away: London’s sewers have highest cocaine level in Europe

Reuters / Luke MacGregor
Scientists have found that London has the highest concentration of cocaine in its sewage system, closely followed by Amsterdam, according to test results from 50 European cities.

The EU’s drug monitoring body has determined that the average daily concentration of cocaine in London’s sewer system was 737mg per 1,000 people in 2014.

Measuring the concentration of drugs in waste water helps scientists monitor the level of illicit drug use in major metropolitan cities.

For instance, the amount of cocaine in London’s waste water drastically rises on Fridays and Sundays and falls back down on Sundays and Mondays, while in Amsterdam, consumption rises later in the weekend, peaking on Sunday.

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Wastewater analysis is a “rapidly developing scientific discipline with the potential for monitoring real-time population-level trends in illicit drug use,” the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) said in its research.

The study also shows that Amsterdam’s sewers have much greater concentrations of cannabis, and London has the fourth highest daily concentration of ecstasy.

At the same time, drugs like cannabis, methamphetamine, and amphetamine were not found in London’s waste water.

Oslo in Norway and Dresden in Germany had the highest levels of methamphetamine in their sewage.

EMCDDA warned that drug agencies have very little comprehension of what kind of drug sales are being organized on the dark web – parts of the internet which remain hidden from regular access.

“Cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, are used to facilitate anonymous transactions, and stealth packaging is used to facilitate transportation of small quantities of drugs through established commercial channels,” said the report.

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Meanwhile, there is an ongoing debate concerning the UK government’s war on drugs. Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Norman Lamb labeled the war on drugs a “catastrophic failure” on Monday, calling on the government to legalize cannabis.

In England and Wales, the government spends £2-4 billion each year fighting drugs, according to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, a charitable think tank that campaigns for an end to the drug war.

According to recent statistics, there were 2,995 drug related deaths in 2013 (involving both legal and illegal drugs), according to the Office of National Statistics’. This is up from 2012, when there were 2,597.