(ANTIMEDIA) United Kingdom — Londoners once again topped the charts for cocaine use when the city was labeled the “cocaine capital” of Europe for the second year running. According to an official study of drug concentration in sewage, the city is one of a small number that has seen a spike in use of the Class A substance in recent years.
Originally employed in the 1990s to monitor the environmental impact of liquid household waste, the Europe-wide study analysed the wastewater of over 60 European cities and towns to explore the drug habits of residents. Researchers examined wastewater samples (sewage) for benzoylecgonine, a chemical produced by the body that breaks down cocaine. Results showed a stable picture of cocaine use over five years, but while most cities showed decreasing or steady trends, an increase was shown in both Brussels and London.
The analysis revealed that the average daily concentration of cocaine in London’s wastewater was 909 mg per 1,000 people. The next closest city was Amsterdam, with levels of 642 mg. Along with geographical patterns, the analysis detects fluctuations in weekly patterns of drug use. Unsurprisingly, London’s levels rocketed to 1,043.7 mg on weekends.
When coke is not coke
That said, the study notes its limitations. Due to fluctuations in the purity of street drugs, data is not always 100 percent accurate. This point echoes a 2015 report by Vice, which argued the U.K. cocaine market had long since collapsed — to the point that dealers no longer know what they are selling.
That report reads:
“So convincing is the mimicry and so effective the cutting, one forensic expert who assesses seizures across the UK claims he has only seen ‘one or two single grams’ of cocaine in the last two years that have tested at higher than 70 percent purity, expensively bought or otherwise.”
Vice credits the collapse in purity to enterprising importers and the discovery that the drug can be heavily cut with the less costly dental anesthetic, Benzocaine. The aesthetically identical powder, which mimics coke’s numbing effects, can be bought from China for around $17 per kilo and cut into cocaine at a ratio as high as 10:1 — or more.
Independent forensic expert Allen Morgan assesses drugs hauls and saidin many seizures, cocaine levels were as low as 1 percent and 3 percent:
“Purity drops as the drug passes along the supply chain. Even at import standard you are looking at something which is 50 to 60 percent pure. I’ve seen seizures of whole kilos that have been bashed to near zero,” he said.
While the high concentration of cocaine found in London’s sewers appears to show that the blending of the powder hasn’t put user’s off, experts also claim MDMA is making a comeback. The European Drug Report 2016points to a resurgence in the use of the drug more commonly known as ecstasy following a decline from the peak levels seen in the early 2000s. The latest survey suggests 2.1 million people aged 15-34 used ecstasy in the last year — 300, 000 higher than the 2015 estimate. The U.K. reported the second highest level of use, and 3.5 percent of young adults said they had taken in in the last 12 months.