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Making waves: Wastewater-based surveillance of cannabis use.

Water Research 2024 March 26
Monitoring cannabis consumption holds great interest due to the increasing trend towards its legalization for both medicinal and recreational purposes, despite the potential risks and harms involved. Wastewater-based surveillance (WBS) offers a valuable tool for assessing shifts and patterns in drug consumption and to evaluate law enforcement strategies and harm reduction programs. However, WBS-derived cannabis use estimates have been linked to greater uncertainties compared to other drugs, in part due to the many different routes of administration and a substantial excretion of metabolites in faecal matter. Therefore, the usual approach for estimating consumed amounts and scaling consumption compared to other problem drugs requires a rethink. This viewpoint highlights the progress made in this area and describes the current existing barriers related to in-sewer and in-sample behaviour (e.g., adsorption/desorption mechanisms), analytical procedures used (e.g., sample preparation), and pharmacokinetic aspects (e.g., administration route) linked to cannabis biomarkers in influent wastewater. These need to be addressed to improve the estimation of cannabis use and reflect spatial and temporal trends in the same way as for other drugs. Until then, we recommend being cautious when interpreting wastewater-based cannabis consumption estimates.

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