Format

Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Environ Health. 2005 Aug 5;4:14.

Cocaine in surface waters: a new evidence-based tool to monitor community drug abuse.

Author information

1
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, Via Eritrea 62, 20157 Milan, Italy. zuccato@marionegri.it

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Cocaine use seems to be increasing in some urban areas worldwide, but it is not straightforward to determine the real extent of this phenomenon. Trends in drug abuse are currently estimated indirectly, mainly by large-scale social, medical, and crime statistics that may be biased or too generic. We thus tested a more direct approach based on 'field' evidence of cocaine use by the general population.

METHODS:

Cocaine and its main urinary metabolite (benzoylecgonine, BE) were measured by mass spectrometry in water samples collected from the River Po and urban waste water treatment plants of medium-size Italian cities. Drug concentration, water flow rate, and population at each site were used to estimate local cocaine consumption.

RESULTS:

We showed that cocaine and BE are present, and measurable, in surface waters of populated areas. The largest Italian river, the Po, with a five-million people catchment basin, steadily carried the equivalent of about 4 kg cocaine per day. This would imply an average daily use of at least 27 +/- 5 doses (100 mg each) for every 1000 young adults, an estimate that greatly exceeds official national figures. Data from waste water treatment plants serving medium-size Italian cities were consistent with this figure.

CONCLUSION:

This paper shows for the first time that an illicit drug, cocaine, is present in the aquatic environment, namely untreated urban waste water and a major river. We used environmental cocaine levels for estimating collective consumption of the drug, an approach with the unique potential ability to monitor local drug abuse trends in real time, while preserving the anonymity of individuals. The method tested here--in principle extendable to other drugs of abuse--might be further refined to become a standardized, objective tool for monitoring drug abuse.

PMID:
16083497
PMCID:
PMC1190203
DOI:
10.1186/1476-069X-4-14
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

0 comments
How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center