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Researchers test Europe’s sewage for drugs

Researchers from Oslo's Norwegian Institute for Water Research and Milan's Mario Negri Institute revealed results from their collaborative study on European sewage today.

Partnering with eleven other institutions across Europe, they traced illicit drug use across 19 European cities measuring biomarkers of cocaine, amphetamine, ecstasy, methamphetamine and cannabis in each city's sewer system.  In what was essentially a "city-wide urine test," scientists found cocaine usage was highest in Antwerp while Nordics preferred methamphetamines; Amsterdam had the highest use of cannabis (surprise, surprise).

While questionnaire-based studies, police reports, and medical data have been the predominant methods to map drug use in cities, studying sewage might yield the most "accurate and dependable results," according to Kevin Thomas -- one of the project's coordinators. He added that "with the right financing we have the potential for the first time to better understand the hard facts about illicit drug use worldwide."

Gert-Jan Geraeds, the Executive Publisher Environmental Science & Ecology at Elsevier, said:

"The importance of solid academic foundations to develop effective drug policies cannot be underestimated. It all comes together in this study: science and policy, on a local scale with global significance." 

Way to kill Europe's buzz, man. 

BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages

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