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.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||Naunyn-Schmiedeberg's archives of pharmacology|
|Publication status||Published - May 2023|
Subject groups, research areas, subject areas according to Destatis
Sustainable Development Goals
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- 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