Sewage research provides reliable data
Research into drug use constitutes an important basis for the development of effective drug policies and for measuring the effectiveness of existing policies. To date, questionnaire-based studies have been the most common measurement method. “There will always be some uncertainty about the reliability of the results of questionnaire-based studies,” says Kevin Thomas, Research Manager at the Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA). “Research into city sewers yields very accurate and dependable results on the total amount of drugs used in the city.”
Usually questionnaire-based studies target specific segments of society, such as partygoers or drug addicts, or the general population. Additional information is also acquired from the police and customs seizure records, the voluntary surrender of drugs, and from hospital admissions and medical data. Keith Thomas leads the European research into illicit drug use. He believes that the measurements in the sewers are an important addition to the methods that exist today. “Through research into the sewer, we can determine how big the drug market in a city is. We can also quickly measure changes in consumption over very short periods of time.” Such changes could for instance be connected to a police raid on a production location, or reflect the arrival on the market of new products, such as designer drugs.
The method is quickly gaining ground
In 2012, the sewers of various European and US are being researched. For Thomas “this method is applicable anywhere. With the right financing we have the potential for the first time to better understand the hard facts about illicit drug use worldwide.” As a result of the European study, KWR is receiving several research requests. For instance, the influent of the WWTP in Katwoude is being examined.
© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute
Pim de Voogt