Drug consumption in German cities and municipalities during the COVID-19 lockdown: a wastewater analysis

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung


Analysis of illicit drugs, medicines, and pathogens in wastewater is a powerful tool for epidemiological studies to monitor public health trends. The aims of this study were to (i) assess spatial and temporal trends of population-normalized mass loads of illicit drugs and nicotine in raw wastewater in the time of regulations against SARS-CoV-2 infections (2020–21) and (ii) find substances that are feasible markers for characterizing the occurrence of selected drugs in wastewater. Raw sewage 24-h composite samples were collected in catchment areas of 15 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in urban, small-town, and rural areas in Germany during different lockdown phases from April 2020 to December 2021. Parent substances (amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, carbamazepine, gabapentin, and metoprolol) and the metabolites of cocaine (benzoylecgonine) and nicotine (cotinine) were measured. The daily discharge of WWTP influents were used to calculate the daily load (mg/day) normalized by population equivalents (PE) in drained catchment areas (in mg/1,000 persons/day). A weekend trend for illicit drugs was visible with higher amounts on Saturdays and Sundays in larger WWTPs. An influence of the regulations to reduce SARS-CoV-2 infections such as contact bans and border closures on drug consumption has been proven in some cases and refuted in several. In addition, metoprolol and cotinine were found to be suitable as marker substances for the characterization of wastewater. A change in drug use was visible at the beginning of the SARS-CoV-2 crisis. Thereafter from mid-2020, no obvious effect was detected with regard to the regulations against SARS-CoV-2 infections on concentration of drugs in wastewater. Wastewater-based epidemiology is suitable for showing changes in drug consumption during the COVID-19 lockdown.


Seiten (von - bis)1061-1074
FachzeitschriftNaunyn-Schmiedeberg's archives of pharmacology
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - Mai 2023

Externe IDs

PubMed 36633617
Mendeley 165242eb-5282-374d-9823-b96f1e83606a
ORCID /0000-0003-0845-6793/work/139025176
ORCID /0000-0003-1054-8080/work/142234522
ORCID /0000-0003-4963-7523/work/142242919
ORCID /0000-0003-1526-997X/work/142247242
ORCID /0000-0003-2514-9429/work/148606776


Fächergruppen, Lehr- und Forschungsbereiche, Fachgebiete nach Destatis

Ziele für nachhaltige Entwicklung

ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete


  • Cotinine, Illicit drugs, Marker substances, SARS-CoV-2, Wastewater-based epidemiology, Water Pollutants, Chemical/analysis, Metoprolol, Humans, Substance-Related Disorders/epidemiology, Nicotine/analysis, Wastewater, Communicable Disease Control, Amphetamine, COVID-19/epidemiology, Cotinine/analysis, Cities, Illicit Drugs