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To obtain more reliable estimates of illicit drug use based on wastewater analysis, Christoph Ort and Ann-Kathrin McCall are studying the stability of drug residues in sewers. The detection of these substances in wastewater is a complete task.

Drug use in Swiss cities unchanged

March 14, 2019,

Consumption of cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines and methamphetamines is increasing all over Europe according to the latest findings of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). In Swiss cities, the consumption of cocaine and ecstasy certainly appear to have remained at a high level.

In a large-scale, Europe-wide drug monitoring project, the wastewater of around 38 million people in 85 cities was analysed in the spring. Researchers collected daily samples over a week-long period in the catchment areas of a total of 97 wastewater treatment plants. In Switzerland, the analyses and evaluations of the wastewater were conducted by the University of Lausanne and Eawag. The wastewater was analysed for traces of four illegal drugs—amphetamines, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine.

Figures for Swiss cities on a high

“As far as Swiss cities are concerned, the amounts of cocaine and MDMA that were measured are similar to previous years”, says Christoph Ort, who is heading up quality control for the international consortium. This indicates, he says, that total consumption in the participating Swiss cities of Bern, Basel, Geneva, St. Gallen and Zurich is still higher than the European average. The consumption of amphetamines in Swiss cities on the other hand tends to be slightly, to significantly, below average compared to the rest of Europe.

Overall, the results show that drug consumption was somewhat higher in comparison to 2017. The detectable traces of cocaine (benzoylecgonine) and MDMA increased in many cities, and almost all cities registered a rise in amphetamine traces, although the increases vary widely between the locations in the study. They were particularly marked in cities in northern and eastern Europe. Traditionally concentrated in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, methamphetamine appears to have seen an increase in consumption in Cyprus, eastern Germany, Spain and northern Europe.

A video shows how wastewater analysis for drug monitoring works

Created by Stephanie Schnydrig