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Wastewater-based epidemiology for illicit drugs: A critical review on global data
Water Research  (IF11.236),  Pub Date : 2021-10-21, DOI: 10.1016/j.watres.2021.117789
Marit Huizer, Thomas L. ter Laak, Pim de Voogt, Annemarie P. van Wezel

Illicit drug use is complex, hidden and often highly stigmatized behaviour, which brings a vast challenge for drug surveillance systems. Drug consumption can be estimated by measuring human excretion products in untreated wastewater, known as wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE). Over the last decade, the application of wastewater-based epidemiology to monitor illicit drug loads increased and WBE is currently applied on a global scale. Studies from over the globe are evaluated with regard to their sampling method, analytical accuracy and consumption calculation, aiming to further reduce relevant uncertainties in order to make reliable comparisons on a global level. Only a limited number is identified as high-quality studies, so further standardization of the WBE approach for illicit drugs is desired especially with regard to the sampling methodology. Only a fraction of the reviewed papers explicitly reports uncertainty ranges for their consumption data. Studies which had the highest reliability are recently published, indicating an improvement in reporting WBE data. Until now, WBE has not been used in large parts of Africa, nor in the Middle East and Russia. An overview of consumption data across the continents on commonly studied drugs (cocaine, MDMA, amphetamine and methamphetamine) is provided. Overall, high consumption rates are confirmed in the US, especially for cocaine and methamphetamine, while relatively low illicit drug consumption is reported in Asia.