Waste water monitoring points to regular cocaine use in Tallinn and Tartu

Cocaine found during a raid at the Tallinn Old Harbor in 2021.
Cocaine found during a raid at the Tallinn Old Harbor in 2021. Source: MTA

Waste water monitoring samples from the first two quarters of 2023 suggest there are regular cocaine users living in Tallinn and Tartu. The researchers are also worried about considerable concentrations of psychotropic substances in waste water.

The last time waste water was analyzed to gauge the spread of narcotics and psychotropic substances in Tallinn, Tartu, Narva, Pärnu, Kohtla-Järve, Viljandi, Maardu, Rakvere, Sillamäe, Valga, Võru, Haapsalu and Paide was over a 24-hour period May 3-4.

Compared to the previous samples taken in January, traces of most substances had fallen considerably.

Cannabis remains by far the most widespread narcotic substance in Estonia, with concentrations in waste water largely unchanged since January. Traces of cannabis were most prevalent in the waste water samples from the Ahtme district of Kohtla-Järve, Narva, Sillamäe, Valga and Tallinn. Cannabis concentrations were more than double in those places when compared to Paide and Võru, Mari-Liis Sööt, head of the Ministry of Justice's analyses department, told ERR.

The study showed that amphetamines are also relatively widespread in Estonia, coming in second after cannabis. Tallinn has the highest concentrations.

The third most widespread drug is cocaine, which was most prominent in the sewage of Tallinn and Tartu where the concentration has not changed much since the start of the year.

Katri Abel-Ollo, researcher at the Estonian Institute for Health Development (TAI), said that the first and second quarter results suggest there are regular cocaine users in Tallinn and Tartu. "The results from Rakvere and Pärnu, on the other hand, likely point to major entertainment events having taken place in January," she said.

Traces of methamphetamine were down compared to January, with concentrations highest in Tallinn and Maardu.

Not surprisingly, methadone was most widespread in Tallinn and Ida-Viru County cities that offer relatively more opioid addiction treatments. This was somewhat lower for Tartu and Valga.

Of new substances, alpha-pyrrolidinopentiophenone or Alpha-PVP was found in the sewage of Tallinn, Tartu and Narva. Mitragynine was found in Tallinn, Valga and Haapsalu. Tallinn waste water also tested positive for the extremely dangerous substance protonitazene as well as opioid addiction maintenance treatment drug buprenorphine. The recent set of samples found now traces of fentanyl.

Abel-Ollo said that the discovery of protonitazene is the most worrying development.

"We have known for a while that this extremely dangerous substance is available on the narcotics market, while traces of it in waste water point to more widespread use. The waste water monitoring method cannot help identify very small groups of users."

The researcher also said that more attention needs to be paid to mitragynine having shown up in several cities' waste water. The substance was also discovered during the year's first round of testing in January and it could constitute a growing trend in Estonia. Mitragynine is a plant-based drug that works as a mild stimulant in small quantities, while the effects start resembling the effects of opioids as doses increase.

The results reflect use of substances tested for per 1,000 residents over a 24-hour period.


Follow ERR News on Facebook and Twitter and never miss an update!

Editor: Marcus Turovski

Hea lugeja, näeme et kasutate vanemat brauseri versiooni või vähelevinud brauserit.

Parema ja terviklikuma kasutajakogemuse tagamiseks soovitame alla laadida uusim versioon mõnest meie toetatud brauserist: