Friday, May 2, 2008


NEW SCIENTIST The Milanese are partial to a line or two of cocaine. The same goes for many drug users in London, although they dabble in heroin more than their Italian counterparts. Both cities like ecstasy at the weekends and cannabis pretty much every day. Welcome to the results from a new branch of public health: sewage epidemiology. . .

The team, headed by Ettore Zuccato and based at the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, looked at samples collected from sewage works in London, Lugano and their hometown. They showed that the results are reproducible – samples taken on the same day in different weeks give similar results – and roughly in line with other estimates of drug use.

The data also provide a level of detail that other methods may miss. Official figures for Italy show that 1.2% of the population, or 10,000 people in Milan, use cocaine. If every one of those was what researchers call a "light" user – someone who consumes around 16 grams annually – 160 kilograms of the drug would disappear up Milanese noses every year.


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