Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

This is your city on drugs

What’s the drug of choice in your city? Cocaine? Methamphetamine? Or a simple cup of java?

Turns out it’s a lot easier to find out than lurking in alleyways or crashing hipster parties. Scientists from Oregon State University have figured out a way to test an entire city for its drug use — legal and illegal.

The scientists sampled about a teaspoon of water from the sewers — because that’s eventually where what people consume ends up — of 10 American cities and tested them for 15 different drugs.

The results, which they presented the Amercan Chemical Society meeting in Boston on Tuesday, are not all that surprising in the end. Here are a few gems:

Most Americans are not too wild and crazy, and their drug of choice is caffeine. People in the midwest are a little more conservative and don’t seem to indulge too much in meth use. One city with a heavy gambling industry — Las vegas, anyone? — shows meth levels five times higher than other cities.

I have no doubt New York has its share of drug use, what with all our models, actors and and hyperactive investment bankers. How do you think your city would fare?


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