10,000 lines a day
Antwerp and Liège universities have calculated the scale of cocaine use in Belgium thanks to tests on refuse water.
20 June 2008
BELGIUM - How much cocaine is consumed in Belgium? It's a hot question since cyclist Tom Boonen tested positive for the drug recently. One of the ways to gage use is by examining refuse water.
Toxicologist Philippe Jorens of Antwerp University explains: "If you use cocaine your body turns it into a number of waste products. These end up in your urine and that ends up in refuse water."
A whole year long researchers have been busy examining the levels of cocaine waste products in Belgian sewerage. The tests were carried out at 40 locations across Belgium.
A line of cocaine is between 100 and 250 milligrams of cocaine. The results found point to 10,000 lines of coke being used every day in Belgium.
In the weekends the figures shoot up to several hundred thousand.
In all some 1.75 million doses are used in Belgium each year. The drug has a street value of half a billion EUR.
The drug is widely used across Belgium. It is used by large sections of the community and especially by the young.
Researchers say it poses an enormous threat to public health.
In all likelihood the test results underestimate actual use because some of the waste products disappear while they are in the sewerage system.
Researchers are now calling for action to be targeted on the cities most badly affected and for follow up research to be carried out.