The closure of nightclubs and bars during COVID-19 lockdowns in Europe is likely behind a significant drop in the use of party drug MDMA last year but consumption of other substances such as cocaine and cannabis kept rising, an EU study said on Thursday.
Conducted by the Lisbon-based European Union drugs agency (EMCDDA), a study of wastewater from nearly 45 million people in 75 European cities revealed that the use of most drugs, except MDMA, increased last year.
Around half of the cities where the study was conducted, ranging from Barcelona to Oslo, recorded increases in detected residues of cocaine, amphetamine, cannabis and methamphetamine in wastewater.
“The results show both a rise and spread for most of the substances studied, reflecting a drugs problem that is both pervasive and complex,” EMCDDA director Alexis Goosdeel said in a statement.
A 2021 report by the United Nations showed a big increase in drug users worldwide due to the pandemic. It said many turned to drugs due to poverty, unemployment and inequality.
MDMA was the only drug where residues declined in the majority of the cities studied, possibly due to pandemic-driven closures of nightlife venues where this drug is often consumed, EMCDDA said.
The study also showed drugs were now reported more evenly across European cities compared to previous years when more diverse geographical patterns were observed.
Cocaine, for instance, remains most prominent in western and southern European cities but is increasingly found in eastern Europe. Methamphetamine, historically concentrated in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, is now found in cities across the continent.
The study said the use of cannabis appeared to have been less affected by COVID-19 lockdowns than other drugs. In a report last year, EMCDDA said cannabis users were stocking up via the darknet to avoid shortages during lockdowns.
(Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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