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Scientists Drug-Test Whole Cities

By RobotGod     Aug 21, 2007 in Science
With just a teaspoon of wastewater, researchers have figured out how to give an entire community a drug test from a city's sewer plant. They hope it will help federal law enforcement and other agencies track dangerous drugs across the country.
myway reports that it would not be used to single out one drug user. But it will help them track the spread of drugs like methamphetamines.
Scientists at Oregon state university tested 10 unnamed American cities for drugs, both legal and illegal, using wastewater. And they got a good snapshot of what drugs people were taking.
"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.
Two federal agencies took samples from U.S. water to see if this kind of test was possible, but they did not get the kind of results that the Oregon researchers got.
One of the early things that they found out in this new study is that meth use from city to city could be huge. One area with a gambling industry had a meth level 5 times higher then other places. Yet there were hardly any meth levels in some midwest towns areas.
What they found the most of was caffeine.
The cities in question had populations from 17,000 to 600,000 in but they wont identify them, saying that it could harm the relationship with the sewage plant operators.
Field plans to start a study looking at 40 Oregon communities.
One affluent area scored low for illicit drugs except for cocaine. Cocaine and ecstasy peaked on weekends and dropped on weekdays. Meth and prescription drugs were steady throughout the entire week.
They believe that this study shows how the typical self reported questionnaire underestimates drug use.
Of course, a lot of it is flushed down the toilet when police come to the door. They did not talk about that factor, but it is a factor.
It could be a good tool. If police, for instance know that meth is suddenly on the rise, they can now make more educated plans to bust dealers and get it off the street. Knowledge is power.
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