Cyprus Mail

Cocaine use in Nicosia worryingly higher than other EU cities

By Stefanos Evripidou

COCAINE use in Nicosia seems to be comparable to that of Athens and higher than other cities like Sarajavo, Prague, Helsinki, Belgrade and Bratislava, according to the findings of the largest European project to date in the emerging science of wastewater analysis.

The project analysed wastewater in 42 European cities to explore the drug-taking habits of those who live in them.

Its conclusions are taken up in the European Drug Report 2014, launched by the EU drugs agency (EMCDDA), as well as in an online interactive analysis by the agency dedicated to the issue.

Dr Despo Fatta-Kassinos and Dr Evroula Hapeshi of Nireas-International Water Research Institute of the University of Cyprus belong to the research group that contributed to the study.

The state university said in a statement that the aim of the study was to assess geographical differences and temporal changes in illicit drug use in metropolitan settings across the region.

It is the first and most extensive wastewater analysis application to date.

“Wastewater analysis is a rapidly developing and novel scientific discipline with the potential for monitoring near-real-time, population-level trends in illicit drug use,” said the statement.

By sampling a known source of wastewater, such as sewage at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), scientists can now estimate the quantity of drugs used in a community by measuring the levels of illicit drugs and their metabolites excreted in urine.

From London to Nicosia and Stockholm to Lisbon, the study analysed daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of WWTPs over a one-week period in April 2012 and in March 2013.

Wastewater from eight million people was analysed for traces of five illicit drugs: amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.

As part of the study, samples were taken from Limassol (source Amathounda) and Nicosia (Pano Deftera) and tested for four of the five drugs – cannabis was not tested for.

The results revealed that cocaine was the most used drug in the two towns, while use of the remaining substances was low.

According to the study, cocaine levels in Limassol and Nicosia were much lower than in samples taken from cities like Paris, Zurich, Valencia, Milan and Antwerp.

In general, the results of the wastewater analysis provided a valuable snapshot of the drugs flow in Europe, revealing marked regional variations in drug use patterns.

Traces of cocaine, for example, were higher in western and some southern cities but lower in northern and eastern cities.

Use of amphetamine, while relatively evenly distributed, showed the highest levels in the north and northwest of Europe. Methamphetamine use, generally low and traditionally concentrated in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, now appears to be present in the east of Germany and northern Europe.

And when weekly patterns of drug use were examined, cocaine and ecstasy levels rose sharply at weekends in most cities, while methamphetamine and cannabis use appeared to be more evenly distributed throughout the week.

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