Mapping Drug Use by Sampling Wastewater

That’s what they did in Oregon. Ninety-six communities in the state shared water samples with researchers to look for the “waste” from drug use.

Researchers from the University of Washington, McGill University and Oregon State University collected single-day samples looking for evidence of methamphetamine, cocaine, and “ecstasy” or MDMA. The analytical tools were developed at OSU.

“This work is the first to demonstrate the use of wastewater samples for spatial analyses, a relatively simple and cost-effective approach to measuring community drug use,” said Caleb Banta-Green, lead author of the paper and epidemiologist at the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.

The results:  “...the index loads of BZE were significantly higher in urban areas and below the level of detection in some rural areas. Methamphetamine was present in all municipalities, rural and urban. MDMA or ecstasy was at quantifiable levels in less than half of the communities, with a significant trend toward higher index loads in more urban areas.”

- Escience

Published Friday, July 17th, 2009

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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