Send to

Choose Destination
Drug Alcohol Depend. 2016 Apr 1;161:189-99. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2016.02.002. Epub 2016 Feb 6.

Assessing geographical differences in illicit drug consumption--A comparison of results from epidemiological and wastewater data in Germany and Switzerland.

Author information

Ecole des Sciences Criminelles, University of Lausanne, Avenue Forel 15, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Electronic address:
Research Institute for Pesticides and Water, University Jaume I, Avda. Sos Baynat s/n, 12071 Castellón de la Plana, Spain.
Ecole des Sciences Criminelles, University of Lausanne, Avenue Forel 15, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Water and Soil Protection Laboratory, Schermenweg 11, 3014 Bern, Switzerland.
Department of Environmental Health Sciences, IRCCS-Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, via la Masa 19, 20156 Milan, Italy.
IFT Institut für Therapieforschung, Parzivalstraße 25, 80804 Munich, Germany; Centre for Social Research on Alcohol and Drugs, SoRAD, Stockholm University, Sveavägen 160, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden.
Addiction Suisse, Avenue Louis-Ruchonnet 14, 1001 Lausanne, Switzerland.
Swiss Research Institute for Public Health and Addiction ISGF, University of Zurich, Konradstrasse 32, 8031 Zurich, Switzerland.
Jugendberatung Streetwork Stadt Zürich, Wasserwerkstrasse 17, 8006 Zurich, Switzerland.
Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag), Ueberlandstrasse 133, 8600, Dübendorf, Switzerland. Electronic address:



Wastewater analysis is an innovative approach that allows monitoring illicit drug use at the community level. This study focused on investigating geographical differences in drug consumption by comparing epidemiological, crime and wastewater data.


Wastewater samples were collected in 19 cities across Germany and Switzerland during one week, covering a population of approximately 8.1 million people. Self-report data and consumption offences for the investigated areas were used for comparison and to investigate differences between the indicators.


Good agreement between data sources was observed for cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants, whereas substantial discrepancies were observed for cocaine. In Germany, an important distinction could be made between Berlin, Dortmund and Munich, where cocaine and particularly amphetamine were more prevalent, and Dresden, where methamphetamine consumption was clearly predominant. Cocaine consumption was relatively homogenous in the larger urban areas of Switzerland, although prevalence and offences data suggested a more heterogeneous picture. Conversely, marked regional differences in amphetamine and methamphetamine consumption could be highlighted.


Combining the available data allowed for a better understanding of the geographical differences regarding prevalence, typology and amounts of substances consumed. For cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants, the complementarity of survey, police and wastewater data could be highlighted, although notable differences could be identified when considering more stigmatised drugs (i.e. cocaine and heroin). Understanding illicit drug consumption at the national scale remains a difficult task, yet this research illustrates the added value of combining complementary data sources to obtain a more comprehensive and accurate picture of the situation.


Crime statistics; Epidemiology; Illicit drugs; Surveys; Wastewater

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center