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An analysis of ethical issues in using wastewater analysis to monitor illicit drug use


Hall, W and Prichard, J and Kirkbride, P and Bruno, R and Thai, PK and Gartner, C and Lai, FY and Ort, C and Mueller, JF, An analysis of ethical issues in using wastewater analysis to monitor illicit drug use, Addiction, 107, (10) pp. 1767-1773. ISSN 1360-0443 (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 The Authors. Addiction Copyright 2012 Society for the Study of Addiction

DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2012.03887.x


Aims: To discuss ethical issues that may arise in using WWA to monitor illicit drug use in the general population and in entertainment precincts, prisons, schools and work-places.

Method: Review current applications of WWA and identify ethical and social issues that may be raised with current and projected future uses of this method.

Results: Wastewater analysis (WWA) of drug residues is a promising method of monitoring illicit drug use that may overcome some limitations of other monitoring methods. When used for monitoring purposes in large populations, WWA does not raise major ethical concerns because individuals are not identified and the prospects of harming residents of catchment areas are remote. When WWA is used in smaller catchment areas (entertainment venues, prisons, schools or work-places) their results could, possibly, indirectly affect the occupants adversely. Researchers will need to take care in reporting their results to reduce media misreporting. Fears about possible use of WWA for mass individual surveillance by drug law enforcement officials are unlikely to be realized, but will need to be addressed because they may affect public support adversely for this type of research.

Conclusions: Using wastewater analysis to monitor illicit drug use in large populations does not raise major ethical concerns, but researchers need to minimize possible adverse consequences in studying smaller populations, such as workers, prisoners and students.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:drug and narcotic control, environmental monitoring methods, privacy, program evaluation, public policy, street drugs analysis, substance abuse detection ethics, substance abuse detection methods, substance-related disorders epidemiology, wastewater
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Other law and legal studies
Research Field:Other law and legal studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Justice and the law not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Prichard, J (Associate Professor Jeremy Prichard)
UTAS Author:Bruno, R (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
ID Code:77993
Year Published:2012
Web of Science® Times Cited:55
Deposited By:Law
Deposited On:2012-06-12
Last Modified:2017-11-07

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