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Using quantitative wastewater analysis to measure daily usage of conventional and emerging illicit drugs at an annual music festival


Lai, FY and Thai, PK and O'Brien, J and Gartner, C and Bruno, R and Kele, B and Ort, C and Prichard, J and Kirkbridge, P and Hall, W and Carter, S and Mueller, JF, Using quantitative wastewater analysis to measure daily usage of conventional and emerging illicit drugs at an annual music festival, Drug and Alcohol Review, 32, (6) pp. 594-602. ISSN 0959-5236 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

DOI: doi:10.1111/dar.12061


Introduction and Aims: Wastewater analysis provides a non-intrusive way of measuring drug use within a population. We used this approach to determine daily use of conventional illicit drugs [cannabis, cocaine, methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)] and emerging illicit psychostimulants (benzylpiperazine, mephedrone and methylone) in two consecutive years (2010 and 2011) at an annual music festival.

Design and Methods: Daily composite wastewater samples, representative of the festival, were collected from the on-site wastewater treatment plant and analysed for drug metabolites. Data over 2 years were compared using Wilcoxon matched-pair test. Data from 2010 festival were compared with data collected at the same time from a nearby urban community using equivalent methods.

Results: Conventional illicit drugs were detected in all samples whereas emerging illicit psychostimulants were found only on specific days. The estimated per capita consumption of MDMA, cocaine and cannabis was similar between the two festival years. Statistically significant (P < 0.05; Z = -2.0–2.2) decreases were observed in use of methamphetamine and one emerging illicit psychostimulant (benzyl piperazine). Only consumption of MDMA was elevated at the festival compared with the nearby urban community.

Discussion and Conclusions: Rates of substance use at this festival remained relatively consistent over two monitoring years. Compared with the urban community, drug use among festival goers was only elevated for MDMA, confirming its popularity in music settings. Our study demonstrated that wastewater analysis can objectively capture changes in substance use at a music setting without raising major ethical issues. It would potentially allow effective assessments of drug prevention strategies in such settings in the future.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:wastewater, consumption pattern, substance misuse, sewage epidemiology, Australia
Research Division:Psychology
Research Group:Clinical and health psychology
Research Field:Health psychology
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:85385
Year Published:2013
Web of Science® Times Cited:74
Deposited By:Psychology
Deposited On:2013-07-03
Last Modified:2017-11-07
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