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Wastewater testing compared with random urinalyses for the surveillance of illicit drug use in prisons

Authors

  • Alex J. Brewer,

    1. Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
    2. Department of Chemistry, University of Kansas, Lawrence, USA
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  • Caleb J. Banta-Green,

    1. Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, USA
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  • Christoph Ort,

    1. Urban Water Management, Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, Dübendorf, Switzerland
    2. Advanced Water Management Centre, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
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  • Alix E. Robel,

    1. Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
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  • Jennifer Field

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, USA
    • Correspondence to Dr Jennifer Field, Department of Environmental and Molecular Toxicology, Oregon State University, 1007 Agriculture & Life Sciences Building, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA. Tel: 541-737-2265; Fax: 541-737-0497: E-mail: jennifer.field@oregonstate.edu

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  • Alex J. Brewer PhD, IRACDA Postdoctoral Fellow, Caleb J. Banta-Green PhD, Affiliate Assistant Professor, Christoph Ort PhD, Research Scientist, Alix E. Robel Research Associate, Jennifer Field PhD, Professor.

Abstract

Introduction and Aims

Illicit drug use is known to occur among inmate populations of correctional (prison) facilities. Conventional approaches to monitor illicit drug use in prisons include random urinalyses (RUA). Conventional approaches are expected to be prone to bias because prisoners may be aware of which days of the week RUAs are conducted. Therefore, we wanted to compare wastewater loads for methamphetamine and cocaine during days with RUA testing and without.

Design and Methods

We collected daily 24-h composite samples of wastewater by continuous sampling, computed daily loads for 1 month and compared the frequency of illicit drug detection to the number of positive RUAs. Diurnal data also were collected for 3 days to determine within-day patterns of illicit drugs excretion.

Results

Methamphetamine was observed in each sample of prison wastewater with no significant difference in daily mass loads between RUA testing and non-testing days. Cocaine and its major metabolite, benzoylecgonine, were observed only at levels below quantification in prison wastewater. Six RUAs were positive for methamphetamine during the month while none were positive for cocaine out of the 243 RUAs conducted.

Discussion and Conclusions

Wastewater analyses offer data regarding the frequency of illicit drug excretion inside the prison that RUAs alone could not detect. [Brewer AJ, Banta-Green CJ, Ort C, Robel AE, Field J. Wastewater testing compared with random urinalyses for the surveillance of illicit drug use in prisons. Drug Alcohol Rev 2016;35:133–7]

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