Researchers from Oregon State University have tested 10 American cities for remnants of drugs, both legal and illegal, from wastewater streams. “It’s a community urinalysis,” said Caleb Banta-Green, a University of Washington drug abuse researcher who was part of the Oregon State team. The scientists presented their results Tuesday at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston. The award for the quote of the day has to go to-
“Wastewater facilities are wonderful places to understand what humans consume and excrete,” Field said.
Apparently she’s not the only one to think so-
David Murray, chief scientist for U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the idea interests his agency.
Murray said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is testing federal wastewater samples just to see if that’s a good method for monitoring drug use. But he didn’t know how many tests were conducted or where.
The EPA will “flush out the details” on testing, Benjamin Grumbles joked. The EPA assistant administrator said the agency is already looking at the problem of potential harm to rivers and lakes from legal pharmaceuticals.
The idea of testing on a citywide basis for drugs makes sense, as long as it doesn’t violate people’s privacy, said Tom Angell of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a Washington-based group that wants looser drug laws.
While fascinating in a scientific sense, this is frightening as hell from an anarchist, or even fiscal conservative, viewpoint. The obvious next step is for drug war money to be allocated, or reallocated, to the cities with the highest concentration of illicit substances in their wastewater. The next step will clearly be the scandals when some local sheriff is caught dumping confiscated cystal meth directly into their town sewer system in order to get more anti-drug funding. But that’s just the impact on government spending. Hopefully America will see the light, elect Ron Paul President in 2008 and he’ll be able to put a stop to such shenanigans.
The other financial impact this is sure to have is on health care costs. Insurance companies will surely start using these tests to help determine insurance costs for various communities. Which means that regardless of your individual habits you’ll be paying more for your health care if your neighbors take various drugs – and not just illegal drugs either: caffeine was the most prevalent substance detected.
Finally, from the “You Call That News” department-
She said that one fairly affluent community scored low for illicit drugs except for cocaine. Cocaine and ecstasy tended to peak on weekends and drop on weekdays, she said, while methamphetamine and prescription drugs were steady throughout the week.
Field said her study suggests that a key tool currently used by drug abuse researchers – self-reported drug questionnaires – underestimates drug use.