The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has released the results of their largest wastewater analysis study. The EU project analysed the wastewater around 60 European cities and towns.
This has allowed researchers to identify which substances are being used and where they are being used across Europe to paint a picture of patterns of drug use across the continent. The data can also allow the researchers to estimate quantities being consumed in particular areas, at certain times of the week or observe any changes in consumption over time.
Wastewater analysis is an emerging field which the EMCDDA has implemented to analyse communal wastewaters to identify drugs and metabolites through interdisciplinary collaboration. The process is explained in a short video available on the EMCDDA website along with further examples of similar research.
The report focuses on illicit stimulant drugs such as amphetamine, MDMA, methamphetamine and cocaine. The project revealed "distinct geographical and temporal patterns of drug use across European cities" which are displayed on an interactive map.
Use patterns were revealed with cocaine being most commonly used in in the west and south of Europe while amphetamine is most prevalent in the northern and eastern cities. The research team was also able to identify patterns of use within cities which could then be matched to different social and demographic features such as nightlife hotspots or student populations.
While the results of this study generally were accordant to the results of other monitoring tools with some exceptions, this kind of insight can allow for improvements to be made in the way other data are collected or to confirm predictions of emerging trends.