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Challenges and opportunities in using wastewater analysis to measure drug use in a small prison facility


van Dyken, EL and Lai, FY and Thai, PK and Ort, C and Bruno, RB and Hall, W and Kirkbride, P and Mueller, JF and Prichard, JP, Challenges and opportunities in using wastewater analysis to measure drug use in a small prison facility, Drug and Alcohol Review, 35 pp. 138-147. ISSN 0959-5236 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs

DOI: doi:10.1111/dar.12156


Wastewater analysis (WWA) is intended to be a direct and objective method of measuring substance use in large urban populations. It has also been used to measure prison substance use in two previous studies. The application of WWA in this context has raised questions as to how best it might be used to measure illicit drug use in prisons, and whether it can also be used to measure prescription misuse. We applied WWA to a small regional prison to measure the use of 12 licit and illicit substances. We attempted to measure the non-medical use of methadone and buprenorphine and to compare our findings with the results of the prisonís mandatory drug testing (MDT). Design and Methods. Representative daily composite samples were collected for two periods of 12 consecutive days in May to July 2013 and analysed for 18 drug metabolites. Prescription data and MDT results were obtained from the prison and compared with the substance use estimates calculated from WWA data. Results. Daily use of methamphetamine, methadone, buprenorphine and codeine was detected, while sporadic detection of ketamine and methylone was also observed. Overall buprenorphine misuse appeared to be greater than methadone misuse. Discussion and Conclusions. Compared with MDT, WWA provides a more comprehensive picture of prison substance use. WWA also has the potential to measure the misuse of medically prescribed substances. However, a great deal of care must be exercised in quantifying the usage of any substance in small populations, such as in prisons.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:sewage epidemiology, prison, prescription misuse, urinalysis, Australia
Research Division:Law and Legal Studies
Research Group:Legal systems
Research Field:Legal institutions (incl. courts and justice systems)
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Rehabilitation and correctional services
UTAS Author:van Dyken, EL (Miss Emma van Dyken)
UTAS Author:Bruno, RB (Associate Professor Raimondo Bruno)
UTAS Author:Prichard, JP (Professor Jeremy Prichard)
ID Code:95903
Year Published:2016 (online first 2014)
Web of Science® Times Cited:21
Deposited By:Faculty of Law
Deposited On:2014-10-10
Last Modified:2017-11-17

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