Cities' Sewage Serves as Giant Drug Test

Analyzing waste for illicit substances sheds light on use
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 23, 2008 4:38 PM CDT
A sewer grate at a New York City intersection.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Across the world, raw sewage is being analyzed for clues to illegal drug use. Environmental scientists are testing waste from US and European cities to gather data, which reveals everything from what's popular to which days see the greatest use of which substances. "Every sample has one illicit drug or another, regardless of location," a chemist tells the LA Times.

The results revealed a multitude of trends. Coke is a party drug—usage spikes on Saturday. Methamphetamine levels in Las Vegas sewage were much higher than those in Omaha or Oklahoma City. LA County tested higher for cocaine than many European cities, and Londoners leave behind more traces of heroin than residents of Italian or Swiss cities.