As they say, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" — which apparently involves partaking in psychoactive drugs, if a new study is to be believed, reports the Los Angeles Times.


Researchers at Italy's Institute of Atmospheric Pollution Research recently published a report that tested levels of psychoactive drugs in the air of eight major Italian cities: Palermo, Rome, Bologna, Florence, Turin, Milan, Verona and Naples. They found that residents are probably taking in measurable levels of cocaine and marijuana just by breathing the air.


Of the eight, Turin was the city with the highest total drug concentration; Palermo had the least. Some cities favored certain drugs disproportionately to others; in Florence, marijuana was the drug of choice. That may not come as a surprise, given the number of college students regularly adrift within that city. 


So does this mean that you could actually get high from breathing in Italian air? Well, no. The levels aren't quite that ... ahem ... high. But levels were significant enough to reveal patterns about overall usage habits of citizens. Authorities hope that the information will help to improve police enforcement of drug laws, as well as map out better drug treatment resources.


The study was done as a more extensive follow-up to a 2006 study that found cocaine present in the ambient air of Rome. Both studies also tested the air for concentrations of more "benign" drugs like nicotine and caffeine, also with positive results. They also show that drug usage changes throughout the year. For instance, marijuana and caffeine are generally more common in the winter months. This information could be useful for understanding the relationship between drug use and seasonal affective disorders.


The findings also raise questions about what might be expected from the air in other major cities around the world, if they were also tested. It's doubtful that Italy is unique here. For instance, how might Amsterdam compare in regards to marijuana in the air? (I think we all know the answer to that.) What about cocaine in New York? And think of the amount of nicotine and caffeine likely puffed around in Paris.


Related story on MNN: Marijuana growers may be wrecking national parks


Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

Can you get high just from breathing the air in Rome?
Study measuring traces of psychotropic drugs in the air of eight major Italian cities has alarming results.