Send to

Choose Destination
Sci Total Environ. 2014 Jul 15;487:629-41. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2013.11.107. Epub 2013 Dec 28.

Illicit and pharmaceutical drug consumption estimated via wastewater analysis. Part A: chemical analysis and drug use estimates.

Author information

Mass Spectrometry Business Unit, Shimadzu, Wharfside, Manchester M17 1GP, UK.
Analytical & Environmental Sciences Division, King's College London, 150 Stamford St., London SE1 9NH, UK.
University of Bath, Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Bath BA2 7AY, UK. Electronic address:


This paper presents, for the first time, community-wide estimation of drug and pharmaceuticals consumption in England using wastewater analysis and a large number of compounds. Among groups of compounds studied were: stimulants, hallucinogens and their metabolites, opioids, morphine derivatives, benzodiazepines, antidepressants and others. Obtained results showed the usefulness of wastewater analysis in order to provide estimates of local community drug consumption. It is noticeable that where target compounds could be compared to NHS prescription statistics, good comparisons were apparent between the two sets of data. These compounds include oxycodone, dihydrocodeine, methadone, tramadol, temazepam and diazepam. Whereas, discrepancies were observed for propoxyphene, codeine, dosulepin and venlafaxine (over-estimations in each case except codeine). Potential reasons for discrepancies include: sales of drugs sold without prescription and not included within NHS data, abuse of a drug with the compound trafficked through illegal sources, different consumption patterns in different areas, direct disposal leading to over estimations when using parent compound as the drug target residue and excretion factors not being representative of the local community. It is noticeable that using a metabolite (and not a parent drug) as a biomarker leads to higher certainty of obtained estimates. With regard to illicit drugs, consistent and logical results were reported. Monitoring of these compounds over a one week period highlighted the expected recreational use of many of these drugs (e.g. cocaine and MDMA) and the more consistent use of others (e.g. methadone).


Consumption; Illicit drugs; Pharmaceuticals; Sewage epidemiology; Wastewater analysis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center