Reading (and drug testing) the waters

What would your toilet contribute to the National Wastewater Monitoring Program?

It seems that your toilet may say more about you than you might think, if results from the National Wastewater Monitoring Program are anything to go by.

The program involves drug testing of wastewater at more than 50 sites around Australia to provide coordinated national research and intelligence on drug use. Not just illegal drugs, but also licit drugs that can be abused. And, as mentioned in a recent post focusing on drug testing of wastewater in Tasmania, the sixth report of the program was recently released.

For the sixth report, wastewater was sampled at 58 locations (22 capital city sites and 36 regional) across June, July and August last year. Sites were monitored in all Australian states and territories, covering 56% of the population or around 13 million people. Drug testing was conducted for 13 substances.

Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the 6th report and the entire program so far:

  • Drug testing of wastewater between August 2017 and August 2018 indicates that an estimated 9.6 tonnes of methylamphetamine, 4 tonnes of cocaine, 1.1 tonnes of MDMA, and more than 700 kilograms of heroin is consumed in Australia each year.
  • The street price of these drugs is around $9.3 billion. Remember, that’s for one year alone! This underlines the size of the black economy for illicit drugs.
  • Compared to data from August 2016 and August 2018, consumption of methylamphetamine, cocaine, fentanyl, nicotine and alcohol in both capital city and regional sites increased, while consumption of MDMA and oxycodone in both capital city and regional sites decreased.
  • For the sixth report, capital city cocaine and heroin average consumption exceeded regional consumption. However, regional use of nicotine, alcohol, methylamphetamine, MDMA, MDA, oxycodone, fentanyl and cannabis exceeded capital city consumption.

The sixth report was the first time cannabis consumption has been included in the report. According to Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission Chief Executive Officer, Michael Phelan, its inclusion in the program illustrates the variation in consumption that exists both within and between the states and territories, providing further insight into one of the largest illicit drug markets in Australia.

“Cannabis is one of the most used illicit drugs, both domestically and internationally, and its inclusion in the program provides valuable insights,” Mr Phelan said.

“In August 2018, there was apparent variation in consumption between the states and territories, with regional average cannabis consumption more than double capital city average consumption.”


What would your toilet contribute to the National Wastewater Monitoring Program? Credit dirtyboxface ( and Me ( Images modifie

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

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