Drug consumption adversely affects population health, social order and the economy. Understanding drug consumption including spatio-temporal patterns and trends is important for the development, implementation and assessment of relevant policy and intervention strategies. Wastewater-based monitoring has been developed as a surveillance tool for drug usage. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) analyses wastewater for human excretion products linked to the consumption of chemicals such as pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs. International and national monitoring programs such as the Europe-wide network sewage analysis CORE group (SCORE), and the National Wastewater Drugs Monitoring Program (NWDMP) in Australia rely on wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) with well-established infrastructure such as an on-site 24h composite autosampler to collect samples. Because of these requirements monitoring programs focus on larger, better developed WWTPs serving cities and large communities and limit these programs in regional and remote areas.
Passive sampling approaches to monitor licit and illicit drugs of concern in wastewater show promise as an alternative sampling technique where conventional composite autosampler sampling is not possible. Recent studies have assessed the applicability of passive sampling at a single wastewater treatment plant (WWTP), however, it remains unknown if single-site calibration is applicable to other WWTPs.
The aim of this study was to determine the uptake kinetics for several licit and illicit drugs by undertaking a systematic multi-site calibration deploying MPT samplers at 22 WWTPs in Australia, to assess differences in and validate MPT performance between those sites for methylamphetamine, amphetamine, hydroxycotinine, cotinine, benzoylecgonine MDMA and noroxycodone, and application at regional and remote areas in Australia.
Our study suggests that MPT passive samplers provide a tool for spatio-temporal monitoring of drug use where automated integrative sampling techniques are not available or feasible.