Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Sewage Tells Tales About Community-wide Drug Abuse

Date:
August 22, 2007
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Public health officials may soon be able to flush out more accurate estimates on illegal drug use in communities across the country thanks to a new screening test. The test doesn't screen people directly, but instead seeks out evidence of illicit drug abuse in drug residues and metabolites excreted in urine and flushed toward municipal sewage treatment plants.

Public health officials may soon be able to flush out more accurate estimates on illegal drug use in communities across the country thanks to screening test described here today at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society. The test doesn't screen people, it seeks out evidence of illicit drug abuse in drug residues and metabolites excreted in urine and flushed toward municipal sewage treatment plants.

The approach could provide a fast, reliable and inexpensive way to track trends in drug use at the local, regional or state levels while preserving the anonymity of individuals, says lead researcher Jennifer Field, Ph.D., an environmental chemist at Oregon State University who works with colleagues at Oregon State University and at the University of Washington.

Past estimates of illicit drug abuse in a community were based largely on surveys in which children and adults were asked about their use of illegal drugs. Researchers knew that some were untruthful, with individuals reluctant to admit breaking the law.

Preliminary tests conducted in 10 U.S. cities show the method can simultaneously quantify methamphetamine and metabolites of cocaine and marijuana and legal drugs such as methadone, oxycodone, and ephedrine, according to Aurea Chiaia, a graduate student who is working to refine the process and described details at the ACS meeting.

"Because our method can provide data in real time, we anticipate it might be used to help law officials undertaking surveillance to make intervention or prevention decisions or to decide where to allocate resources," Chiaia says.

Recently, scientists have sought ways to gauge illegal drug use by measuring the levels of drugs and their by-products found in rivers and wastewater. Last year, Italian scientists found ways to detect metabolites for cocaine in the Po River, giving law enforcement officials more accurate estimates on cocaine use in the area. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy has obtained samples from a dozen different waterways in an effort to assess illegal drug use, as well.

Field says the new screening method under development in her lab improves upon the utility of the laboratory tools currently used to identify traces and metabolites of drugs in such studies. Tandem mass spectrometry, for example, is a laboratory method routinely used to identify the unique by-products of various drugs by determining their molecular weight. The problem is, the method frequently requires a time-consuming off-line process to concentrate the samples.

Field and her colleagues have eliminated that step. "By streamlining this process, we can cut back on the use of solvents and bring about a savings in time, therefore saving money," Field says.

Her lab is now refining the technique to verify its accuracy for extremely low concentrations, on the order of a few nanograms (billionths of a gram) per liter. Calculations of drug use based solely on byproducts found in water supplies, especially at low levels, can be subject to error, Field says. To address this issue, her lab is working to identify common indicators, or biomarkers, such as caffeine or nicotine that can be used to sharpen their calculations.

"A lot of things contribute to the flow in wastewater, including agricultural and industrial processes," Field says. "By linking our illicit drug measurements to biomarkers related to measurable human activities, we could compensate for differences in flows that aren't related to human excretion."

The method would eliminate the need to rely on surveys, medical records and crime reports to assess the scope of a community's drug abuse problem, she says, and allow drug enforcement officials to monitor drug use through time and across geographic regions.

"If you're looking for trends over time or space, this will be a suitable methodology," she says. "By using rapid screening methods on a regular basis, we could follow regional (spatial) trends over time in drug use," she says.

Collaborating with Field and Chiaia are Daniel Sudakin, Ph.D., associate professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at Oregon State University and Caleb Banta-Green, M.S., a research scientist at the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Sewage Tells Tales About Community-wide Drug Abuse." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 August 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070821143621.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2007, August 22). Sewage Tells Tales About Community-wide Drug Abuse. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070821143621.htm
American Chemical Society. "Sewage Tells Tales About Community-wide Drug Abuse." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070821143621.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) A new study out of Canada says cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math

Newsy (Apr. 13, 2014) Researchers at the University of Michigan have designed an app to fight jet lag by adjusting your body's light intake. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins