Tests have indicated that the use of cocaine has become so common in the UK that traces of it can be found in the drinking water.
Inspections done on tap water at four different sites have found a metabolised form of this drug. It indicated that it had already passed through a human body. Although the levels are extremely low and pose no health threat, it is an indication of the widespread use of the illegal drug.
In the past, tests have found traces of the drug on almost every banknote in circulation, at two thirds of Cambridge colleges and in toilets placed in the House of Commons. The findings related to cocaine in tap water though, even after the water has been purified, indicates how common the use of the drug has become.
The form that was found in the tests done at four sites by the Drinking Water Inspectorate showed that it is the same as the compound which is searched for when urine-based cocaine tests are done.
Steve Rolles, from Transform, has stated that the UK has almost the highest level of cocaine use in Western Europe and as its use has increased, the price has dropped. The drug can be obtained for around £40 per gram in the UK, compared to £115 in the United States.
The drug was known to be the drug of choice for the wealthy during the 1980s and 1990s, but it is now being used by almost every profession and class, including schoolchildren.
According to estimates by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, one in 20 British teenagers, between the ages of 15 and 16, has tried the drug.
The number of people seeking treatment for addiction in the UK has increased from 10770 during 2006/2007 to 12592 during 2007/2008. It is estimated that around 700000 people between the ages of 16 and 59 take cocaine every year.
St George’s University London published a report which found that of 1700 drug-related deaths during 2012, 115 were linked to cocaine.
The drinking water that was tested also contained huge amounts of caffeine. Traces of carbamazepine, an epilepsy drug, and ibuprofen were also found in the drinking water.
A report issued by Public Health England during September 2013, concluded that the results of the tests posed no risk to the public. The report stated that consumption of the compounds that were detected are much lower than the therapeutic doses, thus the drugs pose no risk to health.
Principal Inspector at the Drinking Water Inspectorate, Sue Pennison, stated that the study is reassuring as it showed that water treatment was effective in removing a number of pharmaceuticals which were found to be present in untreated river water.
She said that only six compounds were found in river water that had been treated and this posed no health risk to the public.
Image Credit: D. Sinclair Terrasidius