• forensic science;
  • cocaine;
  • benzoylecgonine;
  • sewage epidemiology;
  • wastewater;
  • drug use;
  • gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Abstract:  Indirect estimation methods of cocaine consumption may not reflect the real extent of cocaine use. Another approach is sewage epidemiology. This direct approach is based on analysis of a stable cocaine metabolite, benzoylecgonine (BE), in wastewater. Influent to the Lubbock (Texas) Water Reclamation Plant was sampled twice a week to assess weekly variations in estimates of cocaine consumption over a 5-month period. BE was extracted from influent wastewater samples using solid phase extraction and analyzed using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Measured concentrations of BE were converted to cocaine equivalents; the estimated average daily consumption of cocaine during the study period was 1152 ± 147 g. Based on BE concentrations and sewage epidemiology, higher cocaine consumption was observed on weekends compared to weekdays (p < 0.0003). This method was effective in monitoring BE in wastewater and could be used to complement survey data in estimating cocaine use at a local level.