• Chromatography Shows a Significant Increase in Australian Drug Use


Chromatography Shows a Significant Increase in Australian Drug Use

Apr 06 2016

A study from the University of Queensland in Australia has led to some uncomfortable truths about drug use in the state. In accordance with anecdotal data and hospital records, the analysis of wastewater effluent shows that the use of methamphetamines has increased fivefold in Queensland since the study began. The study — published in The Medical Journal of Australia — took data from two cities in Queensland to analyse for patterns in drug use over the last six years.

By the Numbers

Using liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS), scientists from the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland began their investigation into drug residue in wastewater back in 2009. They used two different sites to collect samples: a coastal city and an inland metropolis.

In the intervening six years, the team have analysed 498 samples from the metropolis and 712 from the coastal site — providing comprehensive data about drug use in those areas. Though the team were searching for the presence of a number of drugs, including MDMA, cocaine and cannabis, methamphetamine is the only which showed a significant increase in its use in that time.

The final figures show that use of the drug has gone up 4.8 times since the investigation was first initiated. “We had noticed (the increase) from year to year but when we put the cities together and plotted from 2009 to 2015 we saw how significant the growth was,” explained Professor Wayne Hall, co-author on the study.

This tallies with other evidence gathered by medical staff, as well. “The numbers of young people presenting to hospitals and addiction treatment centres for meth use taken together with our wastewater data shows a big increase in use in the population as a whole,” Professor Hall went on.

After this latest report in Australia, Professor Hall was quick to point out the benefits of quantifying wastewater composition that the study had illustrated. “We have money for a national project so we have now started monitoring waste water in plants from most states and territories, another group doing this in South Australia as well,” he said. “The work we have done here is testing the methods and we can see it provides really important information about what is happening over time with methamphetamine use.”

It’s not the first time that chromatography has been used to detect the presence of drugs in bodies of water. Last year, a Taiwanese study showed how nearby rivers and streams became contaminated with drug residue in the wake of a music festival.

Chromatography as a Valuable Tool in Wastewater Analysis

Chromatography is not just useful in assessing drug residue in water. As discussed in this article, Targeted and Non-Targeted Analysis of Contaminants in Storm Water Retention Ponds Using LC-HRMS and Online Solid Phase Extraction, chromatography is a useful tool in many different industries when it comes to water analysis.

Image from Wikimedia commons

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