Illicit and pharmaceutical drug consumption estimated via wastewater analysis. Part A: chemical analysis and drug use estimates

David R. Baker, Leon Barron, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Citations (SciVal)
556 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents, for the first time, community-wide estimation of drug and pharmaceuticals consumption in England using wastewater analysis and a large number of compounds. Among groups of compounds studied were: stimulants, hallucinogens and their metabolites, opioids, morphine derivatives, benzodiazepines, antidepressants and others. Obtained results showed the usefulness of wastewater analysis in order to provide estimates of local community drug consumption. It is noticeable that where target compounds could be compared to NHS prescription statistics, good comparisons were apparent between the two sets of data. These compounds include oxycodone, dihydrocodeine, methadone, tramadol, temazepam and diazepam. Whereas, discrepancies were observed for propoxyphene, codeine, dosulepin and venlafaxine (over-estimations in each case except codeine). Potential reasons for discrepancies include: sales of drugs sold without prescription and not included within NHS data, abuse of a drug with the compound trafficked through illegal sources, different consumption patterns in different areas, direct disposal leading to over estimations when using parent compound as the drug target residue and excretion factors not being representative of the local community. It is noticeable that using a metabolite (and not a parent drug) as a biomarker leads to higher certainty of obtained estimates. With regard to illicit drugs, consistent and logical results were reported. Monitoring of these compounds over a one week period highlighted the expected recreational use of many of these drugs (e.g. cocaine and MDMA) and the more consistent use of others (e.g. methadone).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629-641
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date28 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2014


Dive into the research topics of 'Illicit and pharmaceutical drug consumption estimated via wastewater analysis. Part A: chemical analysis and drug use estimates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this