What goes up the chimney but down the drain?
If you're a Brit, there's a good chance it's cocaine, according to a new study.
Scientists from the Drinking Water Inspectorate tasked themselves with finding pharmaceutical compounds in Britain's water supply. They discovered traces of cocaine in water even after it had been treated and purified, the Independent reports.
Researchers found that benzoylecgonine, the metabolized form of cocaine, was common in samples of drinking water that they tested. That compound is the same that's used to flag cocaine use in drug tests. Caffeine, the over-the-counter pain killer ibuprofen, and a drug used to treat epilepsy were other compounds were also found.
Scientists said that although the compound was widespread, it isn't present at levels that would be harmful.
But even if the water is still safe to drink, some experts think the mere presence of metabolized cocaine in the water supply is indicative of a serious problem.
“[Britain has] the near highest level of cocaine use in Western Europe,” Steve Rolles, senior policy analyst at Transform Drug Policy Foundation, told The Sunday Times. “It has also been getting cheaper and cheaper at the same time as its use has been going up.”
Nearly 700,000 people aged 16 to 59 are estimated to take cocaine every year in Britain, according to the Independent.
Trace amounts of pharmaceuticals have also been found in water supplies around the United States. A 2008 survey of more than 27 metropolitan areas found traces of pharmaceuticals in at least 17 different water supplies, according to USA Today.
No cocaine was found in the U.S. drinking water surveyed in 2008.