Home > Spatial and temporal assessment of crack cocaine use in 13 European cities through wastewater-based epidemiology.

Steenbeek, Ruud and Emke, Erik and Vughs, Dennis and Matias, João and Boogaerts, Tim and Castiglioni, Sara and Campos-Mañas, Marina and Covaci, Adrian and de Voogt, Pim and Ter Laak, Thomas and Hernández, Félix and Salgueiro-González, Noelia and Meijer, Wim G and Dias, Mario J and Simões, Susana and van Nuijs, Alexander L N and Bijlsma, Lubertus and Béen, Frederic (2022) Spatial and temporal assessment of crack cocaine use in 13 European cities through wastewater-based epidemiology. The Science of the Total Environment, 847, 157222. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.157222.

Already in early 2000s, concerns have been growing in the EU about increasing use of cocaine and it is estimated that below 1 % of the population administer the drug by smoking crack cocaine. New available data suggests an increase in the use of crack cocaine and an increase in the number of crack cocaine users entering treatment has been reported in several European countries. Robust estimations of crack cocaine use are however not available yet. The use of crack cocaine has long been associated with severe adverse socio-economic conditions as well as mental health problems, such as suicide ideation and depression. The aim of this study was to assess spatial trends in population-normalized mass loads of crack cocaine biomarkers (i.e., anhydroecgonine and anhydroecgonine methyl ester) in 13 European cities in six countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy). Furthermore, temporal trends over a five-year period were evaluated through the analysis of historic samples collected in the Netherlands. Finally, the stability of the crack cocaine biomarkers in wastewater was investigated through batch experiments. The samples were analyzed with a new developed and validated hydrophilic interaction liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry method. Targeted crack cocaine biomarkers were found in all cities. Also, crack cocaine biomarker was detected in wastewater from 2017 to 2021 in the Netherlands, but no significance between the years were found. With respect to biomarker in-sample stability, AEME was found to be stable in wastewater. This study assessed crack cocaine use for the first time on a broad scale, both temporal and in cities across Europe, with wastewater-based epidemiology and it shows the importance of wastewater analysis to monitor community loads of crack cocaine use.

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