Cocaine use above European average

Swiss cities are all below the European average when it comes to taking ecstasy Keystone

More cocaine is consumed in Swiss cities than in European ones, according to a wastewater study of 42 cities in 21 countries. When it came to ecstasy and crystal meth, however, Switzerland was below the European average.

This content was published on May 27, 2014 minutes and agencies

For a one-week period in April 2012 and in March 2013, the sewage of 1.4 million people in five Swiss cities – Basel, Geneva, St Gallen, Zurich and Bern – was tested for cocaine, amphetamines, crystal meth and ecstasy, said the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology on Tuesday.

Switzerland’s largest city came highest, as it were, for cocaine: third behind Antwerp in Belgium and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The federal institute said that, taking into account drug purity and the human metabolism, around 1.6 kilograms of cocaine are consumed every day in Zurich.

Also above the European average were Basel (9th), Geneva (10th) and St Gallen (12th). Bern was in 15th position.

The results were published on Tuesday in scientific journal Addiction. The authors said it wasn’t clear whether Switzerland’s high ranking was down to drug purity, higher per capita consumption or a larger number of consumers.

However, when it came to crystal meth, a methamphetamine, Swiss cities were significantly below the European average. The list was topped by Czech cities Prague and Budweis and the Norwegian capital Oslo.

For ecstasy, the Swiss cities were all below the European average, with Basel and Geneva far below. The clear leaders were the Dutch cities of Eindhoven, Utrecht and Amsterdam.

Switzerland did not feature on the cannabis list because it failed to meet the strict analysis criteria. The authors said the results would have been interesting for Switzerland, a country with high cannabis consumption. The list was headed by Novi Sad in Serbia, Amsterdam and Paris.

Regional variations

For the entire study, daily wastewater from some eight million people was analysed for traces of five illicit drugs: amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and methamphetamine.

According to the authors, the results provide a valuable snapshot of the drug flow through the cities involved, 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.

Also, 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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