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Cocaine, MDMA and methamphetamine residues in wastewater: Consumption trends (2009-2015) in South East Queensland, Australia.

Wastewater analysis, or wastewater-based epidemiology, has become a common tool to monitor trends of illicit drug consumption around the world. In this study, we examined trends in cocaine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and methamphetamine consumption by measuring their residues in wastewater from two wastewater treatment plants in Australia (specifically, an urban and a rural catchment, both in South East Queensland) between 2009 and 2015. With direct injection of the samples, target analytes were identified and quantified using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. Cocaine and MDMA residues and metabolites were mainly quantifiable in the urban catchment while methamphetamine residues were consistently detected in both urban and rural catchments. There was no consistent trend in the population normalised mass loads observed for cocaine and MDMA at the urban site between 2009 and 2015. In contrast, there was a five-fold increase in methamphetamine consumption over this period in this catchment. For methamphetamine consumption, the rural area showed a very similar trend as the urban catchment starting at a lower baseline. The observed increase in per capita loads of methamphetamine via wastewater analysis over the past six years in South East Queensland provides objective evidence for increased methamphetamine consumption in the Australian population while the use of other illicit stimulants remained relatively stable.

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