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London Has More Cocaine in Its Sewers Than Anywhere Else in Europe

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction published the news today, after fishing test tubes full of turd juice out of the sewers of 50 major European cities.
June 4, 2015, 5:05pm

It's not cocaine, it's flour. Still, very dynamic image. Photo via Joseph Jude

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

A new report has found that London has more cocaine in its sewage system than any other European city. Apparently someone is measuring that. And that someone is the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction ( EMCDDA), who found 737mg of the stuff per 1,000 people in the capital's effluence and waste—a touch more than the famed drug city of Amsterdam.


The EMCDDA published the news today, after fishing test tubes full of turd juice out of the sewers of 50 major European cities before compiling—and this is not a joke—a Cocaine In Sewers League Table. Yes, that is the most niche league table that science hath ever wrought, but London's still ahead of Amsterdam.

Basically what scientists were looking for is the main cocaine metabolite, benzoylecgonine, rather than wadded up panic-flushed wraps that posh rude boys ditched whenever they heard the toilet door creaking. And it's extremely weird what they can tell about drug usage just from looking at the pee-poop systems that run constantly beneath our feet: Amsterdam, for example, has a deep weekend, partying through Saturday into Sunday (peaking at 765mg/1,000) before pissing it all out, contrasted with London's big Friday-big Saturday-very quiet Sunday cycle. Antwerp goes hard on public holidays (the average usage is 632mg/1,000), while the Finnish city of Jvaskyla barely touches the stuff, registering just 0.2mg of cocaine per 1,000 people living there.

The EMCDDA study showed some other semi-interesting drug trends, not least that Bristol—the only other British city tested for cheeky dabs of piss-coke—had around 250mg per 1,000 sloshing around beneath it. England, Wales, and Spain are the only three countries that reported cocaine usage among more than 3 percent of their young adults (ages 15 to 34). For comparison, the Europe-wide average is 1.9 percent of the age group, approximately 2.3 million young men and women in various different shiny cocktail bar toilets snorting white powder and yelling to anyone who will listen about how they don't get enough recognition at work even though they are "really fucking smashing it at the moment, actually."


There are economic factors to the piss-poo-cocaine science here, too: the year 2008 is treated as a sort of watershed moment in coke usage across the continent—more than 6 percent of the UK young adult population were users, regular or otherwise, before that whole financial crisis hit, and then it went down to a little above 4 percent—a downwards-facing trend has been mirrored across the EU, and in 2015 it's still on the downslide. Look deeply into the dark and swirling piss slurry of a European sewer, and you will see these words telegraphed back to you from the abyss: YOUNG PEOPLE ARE TOO POOR AND DOOMED TO DO COKE ANY MORE.

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More pee-poo fortune tellings from the EMCDDA include the fact that Amsterdam showed the highest usage for ecstasy and cannabis, while Oslo and Dresden both knocked it out of the park for methamphetamine (London having no trace at all). MDMA and ecstasy use were both generally on the rise across Europe, while amphetamine use was generally stable, with chronic usage more common in northern European countries. Isn't that crazy? You go through your life, pooing and peeing and vomiting with wild abandon into toilets, never thinking the trace amount of metabolites in your droppings might be collected by a central European drugs agency to make an 83-page report about drug use. What else might they be monitoring us for? We may never know.

Still, our sewers are partying. Our sewers are waiting around in a pub for an hour-and-a-half, frantically checking their phone, occasionally loudly making phone calls going "WHERE ARE YOU, MATE? YOU SAID YOU WERE IN TRAFFIC HALF AN HOUR AGO?" Our sewers are turning up to work at 11 AM wearing sunglasses. Our sewers are corralling all the pretty girls at the party and talking to them about their favorite Louis CK sketches in tedious and appalling detail. Our sewers are sweating profusely and worrying their moms. Our sewers are really, really interested in the practical applications of drones. Our sewers still owe you $100, somehow. Our sewers get aggro if you decide to open the curtains before 1 PM. Our sewers are still having fun.

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