Sewage Analysis CORe group Europe

NADRA, Nordic Alcohol and Drug Researchers Assembly 27th -29th August 2014

How measurements of illegal drugs, alcohol and nicotine in wastewater can improve and supplement substance use epidemiology

Abstract Nordic Alcohol and Drug Researchers’ Assembly, Stockholm 27-29 August 2014
Ellen J. Amundsen, The Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research
Malcolm Reid, Norwegian Institute for Water Research/NIVA
Kevin Thomas Norwegian Institute for Water Research/NIVA

The traditional way of gathering information to describe and analyze the use of substances in a community has been to carry out sample surveys in the population and among substance users. In addition, register data from treatment and services, cause of death, driving under the influence etc.   and also indicators on an aggregate level like customs and police seizures for illegal drugs and sales figures for alcohol and tobacco has supplemented knowledge of substance use epidemiology. A more recent technology, assessing the presence and quantity of substances in wastewater, has given new and important information at an aggregate level and per capita.

We will present an overview of how the intake of substances like illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco by humans is related to measurements in wastewater. Sources of bias and uncertainty will be discussed. Then we will present published results showing the usefulness of the wastewater approach.

Finally, we will discuss how wastewater measurements in a city/municipality can identify special characteristics of substance use in that city and how such measurements in general can be integrated into a common description of substance use in a country.

The presentation can be found here


Short report from the conference

The conference gathered alcohol and drug researchers from the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), as well as a few from UK, Germany and Australia. Their background were from the social sciences and some from the medical sciences. The conference included a few plenary sessions with invited speakers and three parallel session for other scientifically accepted contributions. Our presentation was given in a session named “Substance use and trends” which gathered approximately one third of the attendees. The presentation was focused more on results to catch attention within the given time frame rather than to describe the COST network in detail. The presentation was met with considerable interest, but also the wish that the consumption measures should in some way reflect the number of persons using the consumed quantities. Researchers in the social science field working with epidemiologic monitoring tasks are interested in estimates of the number of persons who consume quantities measured. In the presentation, the names and institutions of persons in the Nordic countries working in the waste water area was presented, as well as the activities, networks (SCORE/COST) and research going on.  A summary of the session has been published on the conference website.