A Taste for New Psychoactive Substances: Wastewater Analysis Study of 10 Countries

Richard Bade, Jason M. White, Maulik Ghetia, Santosh Adiraju, Sangeet Adhikari, Lubertus Bijlsma, Tim Boogaerts, Daniel A. Burgard, Sara Castiglioni, Alberto Celma, Andrew Chappell, Adrian Covaci, Erin M. Driver, Rolf U. Halden, Felix Hernandez, Heon Jun Lee, Alexander L.N. Van Nuijs, Jeong Eun Oh, Marco A. Pineda Castro, Noelia Salgueiro-GonzalezBikram Subedi, Xue Ting Shao, Viviane Yargeau, Ettore Zuccato, Cobus Gerber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


New psychoactive substances (NPS) are compounds designed to mimic both licit and illicit drugs, and these substances are being discovered each year through forensic toxicology, drug enforcement agencies, and health authorities. However, there is limited information surrounding their international popularity. In this work, influent wastewater samples (n = 144) were collected from 25 sites in 10 countries: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Fiji, Italy, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, and the United States over the 2020-2021 New Year period. All samples were extracted in the country of origin then shipped and analyzed centrally at the University of South Australia using validated liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry methods. This study focused on 28 NPS stimulants, with 11 detected. The emerging substances eutylone and 3-methylmethcathinone (3-MMC) were detected most frequently and with the highest mass loads, indicating international popularity. Interestingly, the "older"generation stimulants, para-methoxyamphetamine (PMA), methylone, and mephedrone, were also detected. From the sites monitored in this work, areas in New Zealand had the highest loads of NPS stimulant consumption. Results here show that wastewater analysis can elucidate the dynamic nature of the NPS market, providing near real-time information on changing consumption patterns whose information can be used to minimize public risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-63
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 11 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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