This NPR report describes how researchers in Oregon have adapted a technique to administer citywide drug tests using sewage. The research team, led by Dr. Jennifer Field, is part of a relatively new field of science called “sewage epidemiology”.
The purpose of this kind of research is to figure out which illegal drugs are being used by residents of different neighborhoods and create a map of illegal drug use across the state. Their technique can detect such illegal drugs as cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, LSD and ecstasy.
The researchers believe that studies like this can help people at the state level better understand where to put their money for drug intervention, prevention and education. The technique will also be able to determine (in near-real time) when a new drug hits town and can be used as a tool for predicting increases or decreases in particular drug use. Furthermore, they believe that these “sewage maps” may become useful for law enforcement personnel when tackling the drug problem.
The Oregon group expects to publish their findings by next year and similar, smaller studies have begun outside San Diego and in Washington State.
Click here to listen to the full NPR story.