A study by The University of Queensland’s Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences found seven new drug compounds in Australian wastewater, including those that mimic MDMA and cocaine. New psychoactive substances (NPS) are created to mimic illicit drugs with a slightly different molecular structure to avoid detection by law enforcement. The study analysed wastewater samples from Australia and 47 cities in Europe, the United States, Canada, New Zealand, China, Brazil and the Republic of Korea.
Wastewater analysis reveals new psychoactive substances in Australia.
The researchers collected samples during the New Year period between 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22, which saw increased rates of partying and drug-taking. Dr Richard Bade, a researcher at the University of Queensland, said the wastewater analysis of these new drugs could help identify, monitor and control the risks associated with the substances. The study found little difference in the total number of NPS detections during the pre-pandemic period and phases when countries were under heavy restrictions or lessening restrictions.
Australia has introduced government-run pill testing at music festivals and fixed sites in Queensland to address concerns about music festivals, where NPS-adulterated drugs can be mistakenly consumed, increasing emergency department presentations. While this is about harm minimisation, it is important to note that pill testing services do not promote that drugs are safe. They are among a suite of options that can positively affect outcomes regarding illicit drug use, according to Queensland Health Minister Yvette D’Ath.