Can you monitor psychoactive drugs in wastewater?

Drug addiction is a global health problem. It is associated with many societal problems and can cause family and individual problems. The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime have recently reported that drug-related issues are becoming increasingly complex.

New psychoactive substances are among the drugs that complicate the analysis of the drug market. It is more difficult to verify the presence of this type of drug in samples in part because of the rapidly evolving nature of drugs, with new psychoactive substances regularly appearing on the market. Wastewater epidemiology is one of the methods used by regulatory agencies to monitor the use of traditional medicines. A recent article published in the online journal Scientific reports highlights the work carried out to see if chromatography can be used to monitor new psychoactive substances in urban wastewater.

More than trash in trash

Wastewater epidemiology is a multidisciplinary field that uses human waste as a means of monitoring society. One of the primary uses of sewage epidemiology is in the area of ​​drugs and medications in a population. A sample is taken from the wastewater supply of a wastewater treatment plant and analyzed for drugs, drugs and their metabolites. By knowing the origin of the wastewater and the size of the population contributing to the sample, an estimate can be made of drug use and changes in that population. The information can be used to design drug policy and also to directly monitor the effects of that policy.

Monitoring of psychoactive substances in waste

In the document referenced above – Analysis of urban wastewater as an effective tool for monitoring illicit drugs, including new psychoactive substances, in the Eastern European region – researchers in Poland set out to develop and validate a procedure for determining new psychoactive substances and conventional drugs. The method they developed involved solid phase extraction and high performance liquid chromatography with tandem mass spectrometry (SPE-HPLC-MS/MS). The use of chromatography to analyze samples is discussed in the article, Development of cannabinoid analysis in a regulated environment.

The SPE-HPLC-MS/MS method developed by the researchers enabled the simultaneous, selective, highly sensitive, precise (recoveries ≥ 80.1%) and precise (CV ≤ 8.1%) determination of new and classic psychoactive substances in wastewater samples. This is the first time that psychoactive substances have been detected and monitored in Poland in waste water samples. Research has also suggested that cocaine use is increasing in Eastern Europe.

Alvin J. Chase