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Study Shows Cocaine And Other Drugs In Spanish Air 164

Posted by samzenpus
from the can-you-smell-the-party dept.
If you live in Madrid or Barcelona, you might not notice the air pollution due to your contact buzz according to a new study. The Superior Council of Scientific Investigations found the air in those cities to be laced with at least five drugs: amphetamines, opiates, cannabinoids, lysergic acid and most prominently cocaine. Researchers found cocaine in concentrations between 29 and 850 picogram per cubic meter of air. The group stresses that the air samples were taken in high drug areas and don't represent most of the air in the cities.

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Study Shows Cocaine And Other Drugs In Spanish Air

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  • BRB (Score:5, Funny)

    by WilyCoder (736280) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:42PM (#27954299)

    BRB, packing my bags....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sofar (317980)

      what makes you think this is any different than in a typical town in (insert state/country you live in)?

      • Primordial soup (Score:5, Insightful)

        by goombah99 (560566) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:55PM (#27954537)

        We just learned earlier today that RNA is found in primordial soup. That's a lot more complex than a cocaine molecule. I bet you could find cocaine in primoridal soup too.

        Indeed it's cocaine's simmilarity to other molecules in your blood that makes it work. One suspects therefore that because natural selection chose to use those as the currency for nuerotransmission that it's because they were present to begin with.

        (to understand that you have to appreciate the standard model of the evolution of metabolic pathways. the model says, initially organims will just recruit some abundant molecule as their feedstock or for a transmitter. As that molecule starts to deplete the oranisms will evolve some synthetic pathway for producing that molecule from some other abundant sources. and so on till you get to a situation where the original molecule is scarce but is still used by the system.

        thus the fact that we have receptors for cocaine-like molecules suggests that maybe cocaine like molecules were naturally abundant in pre-evolutionary times.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by DarrenBaker (322210)

          It might just mean that after millions of years of putting things in our mouths, we happened to find one that hit that receptor, and helped us 'study for the big test tomorrow'.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by EvilBudMan (588716)

          Uh Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, +4 Informative? Should be +5 Funny! I really wanna see some citations here.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by doti (966971)

          thus the fact that we have receptors for cocaine-like molecules suggests that maybe cocaine like molecules were naturally abundant in pre-evolutionary times.

          so you're suggesting that, instead of going to barcelona, it would be better for him to travel back in time to the biogenesis era?

          • so you're suggesting that, instead of going to barcelona, it would be better for him to travel back in time to the biogenesis era?

            Just don't step on any insects while you are there. I just finished clearing the doughnuts from yesterday's rainstorm.

        • by hey! (33014) on Friday May 15, 2009 @07:08AM (#27964385) Homepage Journal

          We just learned earlier today that RNA is found in primordial soup.

          I'd send it back, then.

      • Optimism, mostly.

      • Re:BRB (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:08PM (#27954815) Homepage Journal
        "what makes you think this is any different than in a typical town in (insert state/country you live in)?"

        Wasn't there a recent study in the US, that in the water supplies they found mostly pharmceutical drugs...even levels of birth control, etc.

        I remember years back, hearing that you 'could' get tested positive for cocaine, just due to you handling currency. The reason being that not only were people using bills rolled up to snort it, but, that often money and the drugs were packed together for storage / transport. I'd heard that almost any bill could be picked at random, and test positive for traces of coke.

        Anecdotal, but, sounded plausible to me.

          • Re:BRB (Score:5, Informative)

            by teebob21 (947095) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:37PM (#27956531) Journal

            Not that it matters, but if you're going to rebut someone with a snopes link, at least state that it's true. Snopes debunks so many urban legends that the folks who can't be bothered to even RTFA will think you just debunked the whole cocaine-laced money thing.

            **SNIFF** Man, George Washington smells good.

            • by sdpuppy (898535)
              Besides, this is Slashdot, there needs to be some techie information or link, such as, how did they determine that currency has traces of drugs?

              Mass spectrometry, using "Direct Analysis in Real Time" ion source. You wave the thing you want analyzed in the instrument and you get your mass peaks data. No sample prep required (don't have to cut up your money or dissolving it up)

              http://www.ionsense.com/drugsoncurrency.php [ionsense.com]

              and a here is nice site describing the technique:

              http://www.jeolusa.com/Deskto [jeolusa.com]

      • Re:BRB (Score:5, Informative)

        by pz (113803) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:13PM (#27954919) Journal

        what makes you think this is any different than in a typical town in (insert state/country you live in)?

        Maybe because of what one of the researchers on the study said, as quoted from the article: "Mar Viana, another researcher who worked on the project, said the levels [in Madrid and Barcelona] were far higher than those found in similar studies in Europe."

        The article then goes on to cite another study in Italy where the highest concentration of cocaine found was 100 pg/m3 -- whereas in the Spanish study, the maximum found was 850 pg/m3. That's almost an order of magnitude difference between Spain and Italy. While there are many, many reasons this might be true, certainly it would appear that Madrid and Barcelona have much higher concentrations of drugs in the air than other cities.

        Despite the overwhelming behavior to the contrary, it really is often worth reading the linked articles before expressing an opinion.

        • MThe article then goes on to cite another study in Italy where the highest concentration of cocaine found was 100 pg/m3 -- whereas in the Spanish study, the maximum found was 850 pg/m3. That's almost an order of magnitude difference between Spain and Italy. While there are many, many reasons this might be true, certainly it would appear that Madrid and Barcelona have much higher concentrations of drugs in the air than other cities.

          Well, here's one hypothesis. Woody Allen made a recent film in Barcelona, and perhaps he had a repeat of this incident. [youtube.com]

      • between 29 and 850 picogram per cubic meter of air.

        FTA: "between 29 and 850 picogram per cubic meter of air. "

        We don't even USE metric over here in the States! DUH!

        • by treeves (963993)

          I don't think there is a good non-metric unit for such a small mass.
          100 pg/m^3 would be 2.5x10^-9 ounces per cubic yard (!)

  • But I can often smell our neighbours' cannabinoids. (Barcelona btw)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    He's from Barcelona.

  • by CountOfJesusChristo (1523057) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:47PM (#27954405)
    So this is how they will finally get people to buy bottled air?
  • by BJC (46012)

    Is that why sourdough tastes so nice in San Francisco?

  • by Yuan-Lung (582630) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:48PM (#27954433)
    downtown Vancouver?


    I kinda wonder how much of the 'good stuff' is in our air..

    Sometimes I get a bit of a buzz just walking down the street after work to the bus stop.
    • by smithmc (451373) *

      downtown Vancouver?

      I kinda wonder how much of the 'good stuff' is in our air..

      Not enough.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @01:50PM (#27954461) Homepage

    Think about how small that is, and how large a cubic meter is. I'm not impressed. You can find a few molecules of almost anything almost everywhere, if you have sensitive enough equipment.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by lobiusmoop (305328)

      Don't knock it, people have made millions by working with similar concentrations [wikipedia.org].

      • What you can't see; but what really matters in that case, is the gullibility concentration.
      • Don't knock it, people have made millions by working with similar concentrations [wikipedia.org].

        I have an open enough mind that some people might claim my brain could fall out sometimes, but the last thing on earth I could ever believe in is homeopathy - particularly it's secondary notion that diluting and succussing a substance makes it stronger.
        What a racket. You can milk the tiniest amounts of herbal or medicinal supplies over and over and make a fortune.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SnarfQuest (469614)

        Sorry, but the concentrations in the air is far too high to be effective, according to the homeopathic cultists. You'd have to dilute it down by at least another 100,000:1.

    • by GigsVT (208848)

      Under US law, the air would be illegal to knowingly possess.

      But then, so is Beef (contains GHB).

      http://www.ceri.com/cti.htm [ceri.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jollyreaper (513215)

      Think about how small that is, and how large a cubic meter is. I'm not impressed. You can find a few molecules of almost anything almost everywhere, if you have sensitive enough equipment.

      Did she believe you?

    • by PMuse (320639)

      Think about how small that is, and how large a cubic meter is. I'm impressed. Picograms per cubic meter?

      If 1 m^3 of air weighs about 1.2kg, then they're into measuring something like 1 part in 41,000,000,000,000.* Now, I'm not in the air quality business (so I'll appreciate being set straight on my math and my expectations), but that sounds pretty darned sensitive to me.

      (*Not accounting for the relative weights of cocaine v various air molecules.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Incadenza (560402)

      Think about how small that is, and how large a cubic meter is. I'm not impressed. You can find a few molecules of almost anything almost everywhere, if you have sensitive enough equipment.

      You will be impressed when you travel from Barcelona to Dubai. In Dubai they have a minimum 4-year jail sentence for possession of drugs, with no lower limit for the amount of drugs. If they can jail you for 3mg stuck to the sole of your shoe [bbc.co.uk] or the poppy seeds from your bagel, then you'll want to use the plane's emergency oxygen for cleaning your lungs before landing. Unless you want to breath Dubai air for 4 years in a row.

  • by StikyPad (445176)

    According to the picture, Nicoderm CQ is the new smack.

  • And, in Prague you would probably smell old beer belches?

  • by Smivs (1197859)

    So, the higher you go, the higher you get?

  • Would be arrogant enough to name their operation "Superior Council".

  • Molecular weight (Score:5, Informative)

    by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:02PM (#27954669) Homepage Journal

    As I recall from my...err, never mind when that was...LSD is a relatively heavy molecule to be floating around. To have even a picogram detectable would imply a lot being manufactured.

    • by jgrahn (181062)
      A

      s I recall from my...err, never mind when that was...LSD is a relatively heavy molecule to be floating around. To have even a picogram detectable would imply a lot being manufactured.

      Especially since one trip is only around 100 micrograms or so ...

      But the article said "lysergic acid -- a relative of LSD ..." so it might just as like have been something not related to drug use. Lots of ergot-infected grass around?

    • As I recall from my...err, never mind when that was...LSD is a relatively heavy molecule to be floating around. To have even a picogram detectable would imply a lot being manufactured.

      It should be easy to check for. LSD causes concentration problems and hallucinations in most... Oooh look, ponies!

  • Terrance McKenna (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    WHAT???? No Cough Syrup was detected?!!!!
      I call TOTAL bullshit on the detection of lysergic acid*.
    No way in hell even a GratefulDead concert would emit a detectable amount! Just more preposterous lies about all drugs are all bad, um-kay!?
    *unless its not from microgram qtys of the drug LSD, but from an industrial source of another chemical that fools the detector - most likely just lying, so why not throw in PCP and BZ while they are at it?

    • I call TOTAL bullshit on the detection of lysergic acid*.

      Agreed. However, there are many natural sources of lysergine derivatives, and it's just possible there may have been contamination of the survey from a local gardening store. Examples include the Morning Glory and Hawaiian Baby Rosewood seeds (the latter may also be coated in strychnine - watch out). Then again, contamination is more likely to be at detectable levels if one of the technicians setting up the equipment had handled a few blotters recently...

  • by ecotax (303198) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:04PM (#27954719)

    Is it still legal to breathe there?

  • So, it's basically 15X [wikipedia.org] cocaine, except diluted in air instead of water. Must be a great buzz. The downside: it's so addictive you die within minutes as soon as you stop breathing.

  • by yourassOA (1546173) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:20PM (#27955049)
    Reek like crack cocaine. See the hallway in an apartment is designed as a giant cold air duct. Air comes out of the room into the hallway under the door. Then through the stairways. Thats why there is always the breeze when you open the fire door it is air getting sucked out of the building. If you live in an apartment check out the gap under your door it is required to be there by building and fire codes. Feel the draft?
  • by laederkeps (976361) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:22PM (#27955087) Homepage

    Nobody expects the spanish intoxication!

  • by flanksteak (69032) * on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:23PM (#27955125) Homepage

    I grew up suffering from allergies in Phoenix and I remember reading the various pollen levels in the paper every morning during spring. I could see the different types of pollen levels and decide on whether or not to take my sleep-inducing antihistamines (this was waaay before Claritin and Zyrtec were readily available).

    I later read that the local pollen reporting organization was prohibited from reporting the levels of marijuana pollen in the air, even though it often jumped into the top 5. I don't think I'm allergic to bud pollen, but I felt bad for those who were.

  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @02:58PM (#27955743) Journal

    Which absurdum shall we reducto it to?

    It's Spanish air, which is to say the air in Spain. Except it's not, it's a couple cities. But it's just the part of those cities that have more of the stuff we're measuring. What's next, a particular apartment building? But really it's Carlos's flat. Mostly in the bedroom. Under the bed. Down by the foot of it. In that box there. No not that one, the other one, the one with the drugs in it. Yeah that's it, that's the air in Spain.

    It's that air in those areas of those cities which is the Spanish air, and it has drugs in it. So the air in Europe is laced with drugs. Of course that means earth's atmosphere contains cocaine. In other words it's the solar system, meaning our galaxy, so it's the universe that has drugs in it. It's all the same, right?

    So nice of them to be so honest about overgeneralizing. Right there in the headline and summary it says one thing except no, it says something else. Thankfully this takes all the pressure off the author when it comes to pesky details like accuracy and precision and stuff, and lets us get right to the business of it being important and all. That important thingy is what makes it important. Just as long as it's it's important, such as being Spanish air rather than some air samples from the drug areas of a couple large cities, that makes it newsworthy here on dot. And by that I mean slash. Or maybe some of each, it doesn't really matter. Oh, wait, there's more to it than that. It needs to have something more than important stuff to get posted. It should have some words. Doesn't matter which ones, because what it means can change from one sentence to the next in order to make it worth reading.

    • Not to mention the fact that we're talking about almost absurdly tiny quantities of drugs here. When you get down to discussing picograms/m3, you're talking really tiny amounts. I'd be really interested in knowing the size of the error bars on these measurements.
  • by zig43 (1422373)
    Junkie hospitalized after attempting to smoke air filter.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @03:03PM (#27955849) Journal
    We've got to end this insane war on drugs. Legalize them, regulate them and tax them at a level that won't promote a black market.
  • Harbinger (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tablizer (95088)

    It's probably not long before cops with tricorder-like gizmos stop people on the street for being high.

  • There is a natural concentration of ~300pp billion of Nitrous Oxide in the atmosphere according to this reference at Encyclopedia of Earth: http://www.eoearth.org/article/Nitrous_oxide [eoearth.org]
  • Seriously, you can probably find "29 and 850 picogram per cubic meter of air" of anything in air...

    Molecular mass of cocaine = 303.353 g/ mol

    29 picograms in 1000 L = .029 picograms in 1 L = 17 464 210 350 amu in 1 L / 303.353 amu = 57,570,587 molecules per liter / 2 = 28,785,293.5 molecules per breath

    Grab your breathing masks!!!
    [I'm sure my dimensions are off...but I don't think I'm that far off the estimate]

  • where he did some back of the envelope calculations... lung capacity, lifetime, time since death, amount of atoms in the air, relative rate of organic material exchange with the atmosphere, dispersal rates, etc...

    and he came to the remarkable (or, rather, unremarkable) conclusion that every time you inhale, you inhale something like 200 atoms of socrates. i mean, 200 atoms that made up the living, breathing philosopher from ancient greece. go ahead, inhale: 200 atoms of the man known as socrates just went i

    • by Jon Abbott (723)

      I did a little research online and it seems like we are breathing the same air that Socrates breathed, not breathing Socrates himself. Now all I can think of is Bill and Ted. Dude! ;^)

  • mexico = "don't drink the water".
    spain = "don't breath the air".

    got it. brb

  • by pluther (647209) <pluther.usa@net> on Thursday May 14, 2009 @04:47PM (#27957853) Homepage

    The rain in Spain will be full of cocaine?

  • by DrBuzzo (913503) on Thursday May 14, 2009 @10:38PM (#27961353) Homepage
    This simply goes to show how damn sensitive modern chemical analysis methods are. You can detect a trace of damn near *anything* with the correct equipment.

    Now here's something else to panic about: There are detectable levels of plutonium and other fallout from 1950's nuclear tests in the average human body. Also, there are detectable levels of nearly every toxin in nearly every substance, if you actually have good enough equipment.

    Picograms per cubic meter ain't much.
  • Now put that anlyzer on the Google street view car running all over in cities! Usable or at least interesting information on all cities. Where NOT to live.

  • Spaniards don't eat dinner till 11PM at the earliest, and don't generally wrap up the day till 2AM. I would imagine cocaine is pretty much a necessity to survive in that culture.

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