Monitoring the scale of pharmaceuticals, illicit and licit drugs consumption is important to assess the needs of law enforcement and public health, and provides more information about the different trends within different countries. Community drug use patterns are usually described by national surveys, sales and seizure data. Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be a reliable approach complementing such surveys.
This study aims to compare and correlate the consumption estimates of pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, alcohol, nicotine and caffeine from wastewater analysis and other sources of information. Wastewater samples were collected in 2015 from 8 different European cities over a one week period, representing a population of approximately 5 million people. Published pharmaceutical sale, illicit drug seizure and alcohol, tobacco and caffeine use data were used for the comparison.
High agreement was found between wastewater and other data sources for pharmaceuticals and cocaine, whereas amphetamines, alcohol and caffeine showed a moderate correlation. methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and nicotine did not correlate with other sources of data. Most of the poor correlations were explained as part of the uncertainties related with the use estimates and were improved with other complementary sources of data.
This work confirms the promising future of WBE as a complementary approach to obtain a more accurate picture of substance use situation within different communities. Our findings suggest further improvements to reduce the uncertainties associated with both sources of information in order to make the data more comparable.