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

July 15, 2020

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 Year 2020
Title Wastewater-based epidemiology pilot study to examine drug use in the Western United States
DOI 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.140697
Authors Nicholas Bishop, Tammy Jones-Lepp, Miranda Margetts, Jordan Sykes, David Alvarez, Deborah Keil
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Science of the Total Environment
Index ID 70214604
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center