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Date Posted: 05:37:25 08/06/05 Sat
Author: msnbc
Subject: Italian Po River "high" on cocaine

<a rel=nofollow target=_blank href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8840056/">http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8840056/</a>

Scientists find Italian river 'high' on cocaine
About $400,000 worth of drug flows through river every day, study finds

Updated: 2:29 p.m. ET Aug. 5, 2005

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 waters.

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 $400,000 worth of cocaine was flowing through the 652 km-long (405 mile) 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 standardized, 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.

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.
2005 MSNBC.com

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