Pubdate: Mon, 08 Aug 2005
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2005 New Zealand Herald


ROME - The mighty Po river is not only Italy's longest. It also may be the
highest, at least judging by the amount of cocaine coursing through its

Italian scientists, trying to develop a new way of measuring levels of drug
abuse, tested the river's waters for excreted cocaine, and for its main
urinary metabolic by-product benzoylecgonine.

They say that the equivalent of about US$400,000 worth of cocaine was
flowing through the 652 km-long river every day.

That is much higher than official estimates for cocaine consumption, which
rely on less objective detection methods, like informal surveys filled out
by drug abusers.

"The method tested here ... might be further refined to become a
standardised, objective tool for monitoring drug abuse," said the study, led
by scientist Ettore Zuccato at the Milan-based Mario Negri Institute for
Pharmacological Research.

Taking into account drug concentrations, water flow rates and populations at
each sampling site, the study concluded that the average daily use of
cocaine along the Po was the equivalent of at least 22-32 doses for every
1,000 young adults.

"The official figures in this area would translate into at least 15,000
cocaine use events per month. We however found evidence of about 40,000
doses per day, a vastly larger estimate," the study said.

The study was published on an open access internet journal.

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