The conclusions may not be surprising, but the method of discovery is intriguing. Oregon State researchers sampled municipal wastewater before it was treated to create a map of drug excretion.
The study looked at 96 communities, representing about 65% of Oregon’s population. It measured levels of methamphetamine, MDMA (ecstasy), and BZE, a cocaine metabolite.
They found that the index loads of BZE were significantly higher in urban areas and below the level of detection in some rural areas. Methamphetamine was present in all municipalities, rural and urban. MDMA was at quantifiable levels in less than half of the communities, with a significant trend toward higher index loads in more urban areas.
The researchers expect their method can help map patterns of illegal drug use. Next step is to find the best method to get a reliable annual reading.