Foon Yin Lai MSc, PhD Candidate, Phong K. Thai PhD, Research Fellow, Jake O' Brien, BSc (Hons), PhD Candidate, Coral Gartner PhD, Research Fellow, Raimondo Bruno PhD, Senior lecturer & Acting Deputy Head of School, Benjamin Kele MAppSc, PhD Candidate, Christoph Ort PhD, Environmental Engineer, Jeremy Prichard PhD, Senior Lecturer, Paul Kirkbride PhD, Professor, Wayne Hall PhD, Professor, NHMRC Australia Fellow & Deputy Director (Policy), Steve Carter ADip, Senior Chemist, Jochen F. Mueller PhD, Professor & ARC Future Fellow.
Using quantitative wastewater analysis to measure daily usage of conventional and emerging illicit drugs at an annual music festival
Article first published online: 19 JUN 2013
© 2013 Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs
Drug and Alcohol Review
Volume 32, Issue 6, pages 594–602, November 2013
How to Cite
Lai, F. Y., Thai, P. K., O'Brien, J., Gartner, C., Bruno, R., Kele, B., Ort, C., Prichard, J., Kirkbride, P., Hall, W., Carter, S. and Mueller, J. F. (2013), Using quantitative wastewater analysis to measure daily usage of conventional and emerging illicit drugs at an annual music festival. Drug and Alcohol Review, 32: 594–602. doi: 10.1111/dar.12061
Declaration of interest: None.
- Issue published online: 12 NOV 2013
- Article first published online: 19 JUN 2013
- Manuscript Accepted: 22 MAY 2013
- Manuscript Received: 10 MAR 2013
- Australian Future Forensics Innovation Network
- Queensland Health Forensic Science Services/Entox Collaborative Research Funds
- National Health and Medical Research Council Australia Fellowship. Grant Number: 569738
- National Health and Medical Research Council Early Career Research Fellowship. Grant Number: 519783
- University of Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
- consumption pattern;
- substance misuse;
- sewage epidemiology;
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.
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. [Lai FY, Thai PK, O'Brien J, Gartner C, Bruno R, Kele B, Ort C, Prichard J, Kirkbride P, Hall W, Carter S, Mueller JF. Using quantitative wastewater analysis to measure daily usage of conventional and emerging illicit drugs at an annual music festival. Drug Alcohol Rev 2013;32:594–602]