Stats Canada keeps a lot of data, and that information can be useful in a lot of different ways. For example, they can study drug use in Canada through plenty of different methods, including looking at wastewater. What that means is that researchers are learning which drugs Canadians in certain cities prefer by looking at what's in their poop.

Okay, that's a relatively simplified explanation for what they are actually doing. Looking at wastewater encompasses studying plenty of different materials that can indicate which drugs people are taking. The goal of the project was to find better ways to collect data relating to the legalization of cannabis.

Wastewater was tested in five major Canadian cities: Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The administered tests were designed to find traces of a variety of drugs, including cannabis, heroin, fentanyl, morphine, cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine.

It turns out that depending on which city you're in, there is definitely a drug of choice among its residents. Halifax had the highest concentration of THC in its wastewater, which is surprising considering the relative difficulty in acquiring medicinal weed within the province. Montreal came in second for THC concentration, and both cities had significantly higher concentrations than Toronto, Edmonton, or Vancouver.

Speaking of Vancouver, if the study showed one thing about the city that might surprise people, it's that the drug of choice for that city is cocaine, which breaks down into benzoylecgonine in the body. Vancouver had the highest concentration in its wastewater, but surprisingly, it was not significantly higher than any other big city. The next highest was in Halifax.

Opioids like heroin and fentanyl were harder to measure as they break down faster in wastewater. While some of them break down into morphine, which can be measured easily, it's impossible to determine which drugs resulted in this morphine concentration, which was highest in Vancouver.

Finally, methamphetamine was actually the most popular in Edmonton. Considering that plenty of meth moves into the province from elsewhere, this isn't exactly all that surprising. However, the difference between Edmonton and Vancouver was not significant, showing that methamphetamine is also popular on the west coast.

This type of testing could prove to be useful in the future, although the report notes that some difficulties may arise from the use of cannabis edibles, which are excreted at different rates. Either way, gathering wastewater is probably not a job that most people want.


There are stories everywhere. If you spot a newsworthy event in your city, send us a message, photo, or video @NarcityCanada on Twitter and Instagram.


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