The data came out of the latest wastewater analysis study of 56 European cities in 19 countries undertaken by sewage analysis centre Score and the EU drugs agency in March 2017.
The study analyzed daily wastewater samples in the catchment areas of treatment plants over a one-week period, testing the wastewater of 43 million people for traces of four drugs: amphetamine, cocaine, MDMA (ecstasy) and methamphetamine (crystal meth).
The results, released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs addiction (Emcdda) on Wednesday, show that cocaine is highly prevalent in five Swiss cities, and ecstasy to a lesser extent, while use of amphetamines and crystal meth is low by European standards.
Zurich placed second behind Barcelona as the European city with the highest use of cocaine – overtaking the Spanish city on the weekends – with St Gallen in fourth place, followed by Geneva (5th), Basel (8th) and Bern (9th).
In a press release, the Emcdda said cocaine use is highest in western and southern European cities, with data suggesting use of the drug is on an upward trend. However cocaine use in the majority of eastern European cities is very low to negligible.
Zurich places fourth for ecstasy use, behind Amsterdam in first place, Eindhoven and Antwerp. Geneva is eighth, with the other three Swiss cities all featuring within the top 20.
After most cities observed sharp increases in traces of ecstasy during 2011-2016, the latest data shows a stabilizing trend, said the Emcdda.
Eindhoven tops the table for amphetamine use, with the top 15 shared entirely by cities in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Amphetamine use was found at much lower levels in southern European cities.
Cities in Germany and Czech Republic dominate the top ten for methamphetamine use, with Zurich placing 12th.
The Emcdda said methamphetamine use remains generally low. Traditionally concentrated in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, it is now present in Cyprus, the east of Germany and northern European countries such as Finland and Norway.
The study found that levels of cocaine and ecstasy in wastewater rise sharply at weekends in most cities, while amphetamine use appears to be more evenly distributed throughout the week.
A survey carried out by newspaper 20 Minutes last year found that drug-taking was increasingly seen as ‘uncool’ by young people, with 81 percent of respondents aged 14-24 saying hard drugs including ecstasy, MDMA and cocaine, were uncool.