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The Week
The Week

The Week Unwrapped: Cocaine, greener trees and superspeed podcasts

Why is UK drug use on the rise? Could we make trees more carbon-positive? And will you listen to this podcast on fast-forward?

Olly Mann and The Week delve behind the headlines and debate what really matters from the past seven days. With Guy Anker, Holden Frith and Sorcha Bradley.

You can subscribe to The Week Unwrapped wherever you get your podcasts:

In this week’s episode, we discuss:

UK drug use

The UK is Europe’s cocaine capital, and the latest analysis of wastewater in big cities suggests that use could have risen by as much as a quarter in just one year. This routine testing gives a better indication of drug use compared with surveys or seizings, but the picture is still incomplete. What we do know is deaths from cocaine poisoning have risen sharply since the early 90s, most rehab enquiries are now related to the Class A drug, and – thanks to a product that has never been so cheap, pure or accessible – the problem is getting worse.

Greener trees

Scientists this week in North Carolina are looking to turn over a new leaf… almost literally, as they announced results of a new study into gene-editing trees. Using Crispr technology, they managed to grow poplar trees that would contain less lignin, a polymer found in the wood that needs to be removed – a process that uses large amounts of energy and water – to make paper. The scientists suggest their gene-edited trees will result in 20% less carbon being emitted during paper-making. But could it come with other drawbacks?

High-speed podcast playback?

New research suggests that an increasing number of people are watching TV and listening to podcasts at higher playback speeds. ALmost one in 10 even listen to music at a faster-than-intended pace. Under-25s are more than twice as likely to listen at 1.25x or 1.5x normal speed. Is this a good use of time or a sign of diminishing attention spans? And how does it affect our ability to absorb and retain information? 

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