Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lots of cocaine in the Po Valley

A lot more people may be getting high in Italy than previously thought:

Scientists have found large quantities of cocaine residue in a river in northern Italy - suggesting consumption is much higher than previously thought.

They say they found the equivalent of 40,000 doses a day in the Po valley, home to about five million people.

The study, published by the UK's Environmental Health magazine, tests sewage and rivers for levels of a by-product of cocaine metabolism.

The new report suggests that past studies of cocaine use in Italy - mainly based on population surveys and crime statistics - had been optimistic.

According to official estimates, people living around the Po consume about 15,000 doses of cocaine a month.

If accurate, this new estimate means cocaine consumption is 80 times the official figure. Not sure what the broader implications of this are, but it raises some questions - are the official and/or standard academic methods for surveying drug use way off?