Cocaine use has risen across Europe, study shows

German authorities seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine in the northern port city of Hamburg
Zollfahndungsamt Hamburg shows a detail of cocaine, found in over 1,700 tins of wall filler, after German authorities seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine in the northern port city of Hamburg, Germany, February 24, 2020, in Europe's largest cocaine haul to date. REUTERS/Cathrin Mueller/File Photo

LISBON, March 22 (Reuters) - Cocaine use has increased across Europe, an EU-wide wastewater study showed on Wednesday, with the highest levels of residues found in Belgium, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands.

The study, the largest to date by the Lisbon-based European drugs monitoring agency EMCDDA, analysed daily wastewater in the catchment areas of treatment plants serving some 54 million people in 104 European cities.

It analysed samples collected over a one-week period between March and April last year for traces of cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA/ecstasy, ketamine and cannabis and found drug-use was greater than in previous studies.

"Today's findings, from a record 104 cities, paint a picture of a drugs problem that is both widespread and complex, with all six substances detected in almost every location," EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel said in a statement.

The results showed a "continued rise in cocaine detections", a trend observed since 2016, and that more cities had reported traces of methamphetamine, also known as crystal meth.

More than half of the 66 European cities with data for 2021 and 2022 recorded increases in cocaine residues.

Ketamine was included for the first time in the 2022 analysis due to "signs of increased availability of ketamine in Europe". The highest amount of residues were found in wastewater in cities in Denmark, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Barbara Lewis

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