It may be winter in jolly old London, but it’s not the only time of year its streets are laced with snow. According to a new study on the drugs in the sewage of 50 European cities, citizens of the U.K. capital do more cocaine than people in any other city in Europe during the work week.
The annual study, carried out by the European Union’s European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction together with SCORE, an E.U.-based group specializing in sewage analysis, looked at London’s wastewater and discovered that the concentration of cocaine in the sewage on an average weekday — defined as Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday — was 790.5 mg per 1,000 people per day. As the chart below shows, the London average is significantly higher than that of many of the other cities, with the exception of Antwerp, which was a close second.
In fact, when the researchers only looked at weekend cocaine into account, Antwerp claimed the top spot. On weekends, defined as Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, people in the Belgian capital used 1,042.00 mg of cocaine per 1,000 people per day. Their ideas of what constitute a “weekend” and “weekday” may seem unintuitive, but they were defined as such because they had to take into account the amount of time it takes for people to metabolize the drugs and excrete those metabolites into the wastewater through their urine.
The amount of cocaine a single user will do in a night, of course, varies widely with how high the individual wants to get, the purity of their cocaine, and how they consume it. According to AddictionBlog.org, the average dose of cocaine for a single person usually varies between 10 and 120 mg, and an estimated lethal dose is 1,200 mg (or 1.2 g), though this can be much lower for people who are extremely sensitive to cocaine. It should be noted that the numbers provided in the study represent the amount of cocaine measured in the wastewater for every 1,000 people in the city.
The study’s discoveries about London’s coke habit are striking — but not surprising. Since 2013, London has been the weekday cocaine capital in Europe.
A recent, unrelated report from the European Commission and the OECD confirmed London’s drug habit, pointing out that 4.2 percent of the city’s residents aged 15 to 34 reported having used cocaine in the past year; across Europe, this figure stands at only 1.8 percent. That same report also found that London has the highest reported gonorrhea rates in Europe, with the number of reported cases roughly three times the average of that in other cities. The authors, however, stopped short at drawing a correlation between STI spread and cocaine use.
Overall, the results from the European Commission/EODC study show sustained responsibility on the part of most of the Eastern European cities studied, although the low cocaine levels reported in their wastewater may reflect a lack of access to the drug rather than an unwillingness to use it. It is fairly clear, however, that cities in Europe’s North and West — that’s Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K. — are suffering from neither unavailability nor disinterest.Photos via Getty Images / Chris Ratcliffe