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Profiles of illicit drug use during annual key holiday and control periods: wastewater analysis in an urban, a semi-rural and a vacation area


Lai, FY and Bruno, R and Hall, W and Gartner, C and Ort, C and Kirkbride, P and Prichard, J and Thai, PK and Carter, S and Mueller, JF, Profiles of illicit drug use during annual key holiday and control periods: wastewater analysis in an urban, a semi-rural and a vacation area, Addiction, 108, (3) pp. 556-565. ISSN 0965-2140 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 The Authors, Addiction © 2012 Society for the Study of Addiction

DOI: doi:10.1111/add.12006


Aims To examine changes in illicit drug consumption between peak holiday season (23 December–3 January) in Australia and a control period two months later in a coastal urban area, an inland semi-rural area and an island populated predominantly by vacationers during holidays. Design Analysis of representative daily composite wastewater samples collected from the inlet of the major wastewater treatment plant in each area. Setting Three wastewater treatment plants. Participants Wastewater treatment plants serviced approximately 350 000 persons in the urban area, 120 000 in the semi-rural area and 1100–2400 on the island. Measurements Drug residues were analysed using liquid chromatography coupled to a tandem mass spectrometer. Per capita drug consumption was estimated. Changes in drug use were quantified using Hedges’ g. Findings During the holidays, cannabis consumption in the semi-rural area declined (g = -2.82) as did methamphetamine (-0.79), whereas cocaine (+1.50) and ecstasy (+1.58) use increased. In the urban area, consumption of all drugs increased during holidays (cannabis +1.58, cocaine +1.67, ecstasy +0.85 and methamphetamine +0.33). In the vacation area, methamphetamine (+0.67), ecstasy (+0.68) and cocaine (+1.14) use increased, but cannabis (-0.46) use decreased during holiday periods. Conclusions While the peak holiday season in Australia is perceived as a period of increased drug use, this is not uniform across all drugs and areas. Substantial declines in drug use in the semi-rural area contrasted with substantial increases in urban and vacation areas. Per capita drug consumption in the vacation area was equivalent to that in the urban area, implying that these locations merit particular attention for drug use monitoring and harm minimisation measures.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:wastewater, drug epidemiology
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Biological psychology
Research Field:Behavioural neuroscience
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Public health (excl. specific population health)
Objective Field:Public health (excl. specific population health) not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Bruno, R (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
UTAS Author:Prichard, J (Associate Professor Jeremy Prichard)
ID Code:81167
Year Published:2013 (online first 2012)
Web of Science® Times Cited:79
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2012-11-25
Last Modified:2017-11-07

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