Europeans are taking more cocaine and MDMA than ever, according to a new study.
New data released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addiction (EMCDA) from April 2019 has revealed a surge in the use of MDMA - the active ingredient in ecstasy - across Europe, and particularly in the Netherlands, with Amsterdam, Utrecht and Eindhoven the top three cities in the research.
The study analysed the wastewater of 49 million people across Europe.
Of 42 cities surveyed, 23 saw an increase in residues of MDMA in wastewater, suggesting that what was once "a niche or subcultural drug limited to dance clubs and parties, but is now being used by a broader range of young people in mainstream nightlife settings," EMCDA said.
Of 45 cities surveyed for cocaine use, increases were found in 27, with Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK and Spain among the top ten. The city with the highest cocaine use was Antwerp, Belgium, with 1,275.7 mg per 1,000 people per day found in its wastewater in 2019.
Four of the top ten cities - St Gallen Hofen, Zurich, Basel and Geneva - are in Switzerland, while the UK capital of London came in tenth place.
The study also tested for use of amphetamines and methamphetamines - also known as "crystal meth". The highest concentrations of the former were in Sweden, with Stockholm and Gavle top of the list, while the use of methamphetamines was most common in the Czech Republic and Germany.
The reason that certain countries see higher uses of certain drugs than others was "the one million dollar question", Joao Matias, scientific analyst, at the EMCDA told Euronews.
"We are seeing lots of shipments of cocaine being seized in Antwerp because they have a large port, so the drug is available there, which must be one of the reasons. We are seeing an increase [in cocaine use] in Belgium overall," he said.
Equally, he said, a trend has tended to be that while in southern Europe cocaine is more prevalent, in northern Europe amphetamines are more common.
As well as revealing the overall levels of drugs consumed in European cities, the research has thrown up other interesting trends. In the 2018 figures, for example, a surge in MDMA levels on Monday and Tuesdays was explained by consumers flushing leftover drugs down the toilet.
To avoid such phenomena skewing the results, scientists test only for substances that have been ingested by the human body and then passed out into the sewer system.