Municipal wastewater holds the key to tracking opioid intervention initiatives

December 5, 2018, Society for Risk Analysis

In 2016, opioids were the primary cause of more than 42,000 deaths in the U.S. Controlled substances (opioids and other drugs, such as marijuana) pose a threat to both human and environmental health. With the crisis showing no signs of slowing down, officials across the country are scrambling to implement effective intervention programs in their communities, but the impact of these initiatives can be difficult to track as much of the data relies of self-reporting where current stigmatizations prevent individuals from giving accurate reports. Several presentations at the 2018 Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Annual Meeting will explore novel approaches to monitoring real-time drug use in town and cities nationwide.

Opioid use has reached across the U.S., with more than 130 people dying each day from overdoses and billions spent in healthcare costs. One of the challenges to curbing the epidemic is a lack of real-time information on drug supply and demand—current data sources rely on self-reported surveys with a two-year lag before data are available. Municipal testing is an innovative approach that can supplement existing data by providing more rapid, cost-effective and unbiased measures of drug use in a particular area.

"Cities can use wastewater tests to locate "hot spots" of drug use. The method can provide an that drugs are entering a community," states Aparna Keshaviah, Sc.M., Mathematica Policy Research. "Repeated testing over time can show shifts in drug use that reveal how well control policies are working."

Keshaviah's study, "Identifying the next drug epidemic by testing ," explores how this testing methodology can be used by state and local officials to predict, rather than react to, changes in drug use. Another study, conducted by Sheree Pagsuyoin, University of Massachusetts, titled "Detection of illicit drugs in sewage and analysis of community drug use through wastewater data," looks at the application of wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) to estimate community drug use in three areas in the northeast U.S.

Wastewater samples were analyzed for the presence of MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, fentanyl, and methamphetamine. The results were compared with survey-based data and allow for the characterization and assessment of the problem in a particular area. The process can be applied to a wide range of wastewater treatment plants and allows for more real-time detection of consumption patterns which can aid in the development of more robust intervention programs.

These studies will be presented during the Understanding the Ecological and Health Risks Associated with Trace Organics in the Environment symposium on Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 3:30-5:10 p.m. at the 2018 SRA Annual Meeting at the New Orleans Marriott in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Explore further: Wastewater study flushes out drug habits

Related Stories

Wastewater study flushes out drug habits

March 13, 2017
In the first wastewater study of drug use in New Zealand, methamphetamine was the most commonly detected illegal drug in Auckland.

Feds say heroin, fentanyl remain biggest drug threat to US

November 2, 2018
Opioid overdose deaths hit the highest level ever recorded in the United States last year, with an estimated 200 people dying per day, according to a report by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Recommended for you

Early physical therapy can reduce risk, amount of long-term opioid use, study finds

December 14, 2018
Patients who underwent physical therapy soon after being diagnosed with pain in the shoulder, neck, low back or knee were approximately 7 to 16 percent less likely to use opioids in the subsequent months, according to a new ...

Early postpartum opioids linked with persistent usage

December 14, 2018
Vanderbilt researchers have published findings indicating that regardless of whether a woman delivers a child by cesarean section or by vaginal birth, if they fill prescriptions for opioid pain medications early in the postpartum ...

Shortcut strategy for screening compounds with clinical potentials for drug development

December 4, 2018
Developing a new drug often takes years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars. A shortcut has now been reported in a study led by City University of Hong Kong (CityU), which can potentially reduce the time and costs of ...

Drug wholesalers drove fentanyl's deadly rise, report concludes

December 4, 2018
Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid implicated in nearly 29,000 overdose deaths in the United States last year, most likely spread because of heroin and prescription pill shortages, and also because it was cheaper for drug ...

Global review reports on administration of children's antibiotics

December 4, 2018
Researchers analyzing the sales of oral antibiotics for children in 70 high- and middle-income countries found that consumption varies widely from country to country with little correlation between countries' wealth and the ...

Opioid prescriptions from dentists linked to youth addiction risk

December 3, 2018
Teens and young adults who receive their initial opioid prescriptions from their dentists or oral surgeons are at increased risk for opioid addiction in the following year, a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.