Wastewater-based epidemiology pilot study to examine drug use in the Western United States

Science of the Total Environment
By: , and 



The extent of prescription and illicit drug abuse in geographically isolated rural and micropolitan communities in the intermountain western United States (US) has not been well tracked. The goal of this pilot study was to accurately measure drug dose consumption rates (DCR) between two select populations, normalize the data and compare the DCRs to similar communities. To learn about patterns of drug abuse between the two disparate communities, we used the emergent field of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE). A rapid, quantitative and systematic process for the determination of multiple classes of prescribed and illicit drugs was applied to influent wastewater samples. Influent samples were collected over the course of three months (April to June 2019) at two wastewater treatment plants representing a small urban and a rural community. Collection of sewage influent included 24-h composite samples and the use of polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS), time-weighted samplers. Using the results from the composite sampling data, DCRs per 1000 population could be calculated from the concentration data and the use of excretion correction factors. The following 18 compounds: amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDA, MDMA, morphine, 6-acetylmorphine, methadone, EDDP, codeine, benzoylecgonine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, oxycodone, noroxycodone, ketamine, fluoxetine, tramadol, and ritalinic acid; represent a subset of the targeted analytes that were consistently measured at detectable concentration levels, and present at both sites. Following normalization of the drug measurements to influent flow rates and per capita, the small urban community demonstrated greater collective excretion rates (CER) than the rural community, with the exceptions of amphetamine and methamphetamine.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Wastewater-based epidemiology pilot study to examine drug use in the Western United States
Series title Science of the Total Environment
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140697
Volume 745
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Columbia Environmental Research Center
Description 140697, 7 p.
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