New psychoactive substances in several European populations assessed by wastewater-based epidemiology

Sara Castiglioni, Noelia Salgueiro-González, Lubertus Bijlsma, Alberto Celma, Emma Gracia-Lor, Mihail Simion Beldean-Galea, Tomáš Mackuľak, Erik Emke, Ester Heath, Barbara Kasprzyk-Hordern, Andjelka Petkovic, Francesco Poretti, Jeliaz Rangelov, Miguel M. Santos, Maja Sremački, Katarzyna Styszko, Felix Hernández, Ettore Zuccato

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39 Citations (SciVal)


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) can be a useful tool to face some of the existing challenges in monitoring the use of new psychoactive substances (NPS), as it can provide objective and updated information. This Europe-wide study aimed to verify the suitability of WBE for investigating the use of NPS. Selected NPS were monitored in urban wastewater by high performance liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC-MS/MS). The main classical illicit drugs were monitored in the same samples to compare their levels with those of NPS. Raw composite wastewater samples were collected in 2016 and 2017 in 14 European countries (22 cities) following best practice sampling protocols. Methcathinone was most frequent (>65% of the cities), followed by mephedrone (>25% of the cities), and only mephedrone, methcathinone and methylone were found in both years. This study depicts the use of NPS in Europe, confirming that it is much lower than the use of classical drugs. WBE proved able to assess the qualitative and quantitative spatial and temporal profiles of NPS use. The results show the changeable nature of the NPS market and the importance of large WBE monitoring campaigns for selected priority NPS. WBE is valuable for complementing epidemiological studies to follow rapidly changing profiles of use of drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116983
JournalWater Research
Early online date27 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Lubertus Bijlsma wishes to thank Ettore Zuccato, Sara Castiglioni and the Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri (Milan, Italy) for hosting him as a post-doc researcher. Alberto Celma acknowledges the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness for his predoctoral grant (BES-2016-076914). F?lix Hern?ndez acknowledges MINECO (Project CTQ2015-65603-P), as well as Generalitat Valenciana (Research Group of Excellence, Prometeo 2019/040). The collecting of samples in Krakow was supported by ??Municipal Waterworks and Sewer Enterprise in Krakow??. We greatly acknowledge Igor Bod?k, Slovak University of Technology, Bratislava, Slovakia; Fiona Regan Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland; Jaroslav Slobodnik and Natalia Glowacka, Environmental Institute of Kos, Slovak Republic; Mariya Skobley, Ukraine, for the help provided for samples collection. Wessex Water is acknowledged for samples provision in the UK. This work was supported by the European Commission [grant HOME/2014/JDRUG/AG/DRUG/7086 - NPS-Euronet]. This research was partially funded by the AGH UST grant subsidy of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Europe
  • monitoring
  • new psychoactive substances
  • spatial and temporal trends
  • Urban wastewater
  • use profiles

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecological Modelling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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