Culture/Society

Which drugs are the most popular around the world? Researchers looked at sewage to find the answer

Researchers have just completed a massive new study to find out what drugs people take most often to get wasted.

And while you’ve probably got a pretty good idea which drugs are the most popular, the methodology researchers used to reach their conclusions is certain unorthodox, if not completely logical.

Scientists examined the sewage/waste of 60 million people in 37 countries over several years to find out that “cocaine use is on the rise across Europe, methamphetamine is most prevalent in North America and Australasia, and the Netherlands had the highest rate of MDMA use,” notes Vice.

This is the largest wastewater‐based epidemiology study ever performed in terms of cities (120) and countries (37) involved and of the monitoring duration (2011–17),” said the team, which was co-led by Iria González-Mariño, an assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Salamanca in Spain.

“The extensive data set obtained for cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and MDMA showed a comprehensive picture of spatial and temporal trends of use,” González-Mariño and her colleagues said in the study.

Screening for drug residue in sewage has become a preferred method for tracking drug use in the U.S. and around the developed world.

“The team began sampling wastewater in European cities in 2011, and expanded the survey to Australia, New Zealand, Colombia, Martinique, Canada, the US, South Korea, and Israel from 2014 to 2017,” Vice reported, adding that the team did not collect samples during holidays and special occasions because drug use tends to be higher then anyway.

They also tried to account for the high incidence of prescription drugs.

“The results showed that overall drug use was most prevalent cities such as Antwerp, Amsterdam, Zurich, London, and Barcelona, while cities in Greece, Portugal, Finland, Poland, and Sweden had the lowest rates of drug residue in wastewater,” Vice reported.

See the study here.

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