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Qld wastewater analysis shows increasing trend to methamphetamine use

Media Release

25 June 2012

The Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC) today released a ground-breaking research paper on wastewater analysis (WWA) of drugs, by the University of Tasmania, Queensland University, and the Australian Federal Police.

In this study, researchers chemically analysed municipal wastewater and produced daily estimates of consumption of methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine from a Queensland municipality with an estimated population of over 150,000 people.

Samples were collected in November 2009 and November 2010 which showed a spike in drug use on weekends. More important, the load data also indicate a statistically significant decline in cocaine levels between 2009 and 2010.

The reverse pattern was found for methamphetamine with a statistically significant increase in use between 2009 and 2010. It also suggested that cocaine and methamphetamines may be economic substitutes for each other.

University of Tasmania’s Dr Jeremy Prichard, who was part of the research team, said: “WWA has potential to usefully supplement information gathered by current drug monitoring systems.

“By producing time sensitive, chemical data from large populations, the WWA method provides detailed but anonymous information on the size and evolution of drug markets in specific geographic locations.”

As cocaine users are often middle class, discreet, and less likely to be revealed through other drug use surveys such as the AIC’s Drug Use Monitoring Australia (DUMA) urinalysis program, WWA could also be the best way of assessing the true size of the cocaine market and how it is affected by drug seizures undertaken by law enforcement drug seizure operations.

The report is available at

For Comment: Colin  Campbell 0418 159 525