Flushing out Auckland and Australia's meth habits

Embargoed until: Publicly released:
Wastewater samples have revealed Auckland and major Australian cities have much more significant methamphetamine problems compared with many European cities. The Massey-led study set out to measure prevalence of meth, codeine, cocaine, MDMA and methadone. Researchers analysed a week of daily wastewater samples from two Auckland and eight Australian urban wastewater treatment plants from Queensland, ACT, Victoria and New South Wales during 2014 and 2015. The samples revealed lower levels of MDMA, cocaine, methadone and codeine in Auckland compared to the sampled Australia cities.

Journal/conference: New Zealand Medical Journal

Organisation/s: Massey University

Funder: Funding by Massey University. Entox is a joint venture of the University of Queensland and the Queensland Department of Health. Foon Yin Lai acknowledges the University of Antwerp’s BOF postdoctoral funding and Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (Project No. 749845, APOLLO) of the European Commission (Horizon 2020). Phong Thai is funded by a QUT VC Fellowship and was partly funded by a University of Queensland Postdoctoral Fellowship during the Auckland sampling campaign. Jake O’Brien was funded by an APA PhD scholarship. Jochen Mueller was funded by an ARC Future Fellowship (FT120100546).

Media Release

From: New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA)

Comparing methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine, codeine and methadone use between
the Auckland region and four Australian states using wastewater-based epidemiology

Five key points

1. Levels of methamphetamine consumption at the two Auckland wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) were lower than five of the eight Australian WWTPs
2. Cocaine was not detected at either of the two Auckland WTTPs
3. MDMA was detected on only one day of the sampled week in each of the Auckland WWTPs
4. In contrast, cocaine and MDMA was detected on every day at all eight Australian WWTPs
5. These findings are consistent with recent findings from drug monitoring studies of police arrestees and frequent drug users in New Zealand. 

Plain English Summary
We aim to compare levels of drug use in Auckland with four Australian major cities using wastewater based epidemiology (WBE). A week of daily wastewater samples were selected from two Auckland and eight Australian urban wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) during 2014 and 2015. Both Auckland and the selected Australian cities have significant methamphetamine problems compared to many European cities. MDMA and cocaine use is low in Auckland compared to sampled Australia cities.

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