Substances detected in used syringes of injecting drug users across 7 cities in Europe in 2017 and 2018: The European Syringe Collection and Analysis Project Enterprise (ESCAPE)

Tibor M. Brunt*, Elodie Lefrançois, Teemu Gunnar, Anne Arponen, Thomas Seyler, Anneke E. Goudriaan, Andrew McAuley, Denise A. McKeown, Victor Detrez, Jozsef Csorba, Daniel Deimel, Volker Auwärter, Jürgen Kempf, Sara Karolak, Thomas Nefau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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Background and aims: Injecting drug use is a matter of public health concern, associated with risks of overdoses, addiction and increased risk of bloodborne viral transmissions. Self-reported data on substances injected can be inaccurate or subject to bias or drug users might be oblivious to their injected substances or adulterations. Gathering of robust analytical information on the actual composition of substances injected might provide better information about the drugs that are being used. Therefore, this study aimed to analyse the residual content of discarded syringes collected across 7 European cities, collectively called the European Syringe Collection and Analysis Project Enterprise (ESCAPE).

Methods: Used syringes were collected at street automatic injection kit dispensers or at harm-reduction services in Amsterdam, Budapest, Cologne, Glasgow, Helsinki, Lausanne and Paris. Two sampling periods were executed thus far, in 2017 and 2018. Qualitative chemical analysis of the content of used syringes was performed combining gas chromatographic (GC) and ultra(high)performance liquid chromatographic ((U)HPLC) analytical techniques with detection by mass spectrometry (MS).

Results: Substances detected most frequently across both campaigns were cocaine, heroin, buprenorphine, amphetamines and synthetic cathinones. In Amsterdam, Cologne, Lausanne and Glasgow heroin and cocaine were the psychoactive substances most often detected, often in conjunction with each other. Helsinki showed a high presence of buprenorphine and amphetamines. In Budapest and Paris, synthetic cathinones were frequently detected. Less synthetic cathinones and cocaine was detected in 2018, whereas buprenorphine was detected almost twice as much. Inner-city variations were found, probably reflecting the types of people who inject drugs (PWID) in different areas of the city.

Conclusion: Overall, laboratory-confirmed local data on injected substances showed resemblance to national surveys done among PWID. However, the ESCAPE data also showed some interesting differences, showing it can be used for local interventions and complementing existing monitoring data.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103130
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date22 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • chemical analysis
  • heroin
  • injected substances
  • people who inject drugs (PWID)
  • polydrug use
  • synthetic cathinones
  • syringes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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