Oregon State University researchers have figured out how to test entire communities for drugs using just a teaspoon of wastewater, according to an article published by the Associated Press on August 21.
For obvious reasons, the test couldn’t be a tool for identifying specific users. But it could serve as a tool for officials to map the spread of illegal drugs across the United States.
Researches tested ten American cities ranging in population from 17,000 to 600,000 for both legal and illegal drugs. They have decided not to release the names of these cities at this time. The researchers found that the ingredient Americans consume and excrete the most is caffeine.
In early results the study showed huge gaps in the use of methamphetamine from city to city. They found that one city located in an urban area with a gambling industry had five times higher levels than other cities. In some cities they noticed a peak in activity of cocaine and ecstasy use on the weekends but in others a steady level of methamphetamine use throughout the week.
Federal agencies have become interested in the testing idea and have begun taken samples from U.S waterways to evaluate the idea of drug testing whole cities.
Caleb Banta-Green, a university of Washington drug abuse researcher referred to the idea as a “community urinalysis.”
This seems to be a way for law enforcement officials to begin locating where the illegal drug use is happening and when it is most likely to occur. I think it can serve as a great tool for evaluating drug use and give us a better idea of who’s using, even without pin-pointing individual users. It can pinpoint communities and we can work from there.