Tracking narcotics consumption at a Southwestern U.S. university campus by wastewater-based epidemiology

Adam J. Gushgari, Erin M. Driver, Joshua C. Steele, Rolf U. Halden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) was applied to estimate the consumption of twelve narcotics within a Southwestern U.S. university campus. Seven consecutive 24-hour composite raw wastewater samples (n = 80) were obtained once per month from sampling locations capturing >95% of campus-generated wastewater. Samples were analyzed for indicators of consumption of morphine, codeine, oxycodone, heroin, fentanyl, methadone, buprenorphine, amphetamine, methylphenidate, alprazolam, cocaine, and MDMA using LC–MS/MS. Eleven indicator compounds (oxycodone, codeine, norcodeine, 6-acetylmorphine, EDDP, amphetamine, alprazolam, alpha-hydroxyalprazolam, cocaine, benzoylecgonine, and MDMA) occurred at 100% detection frequency across the study, followed by morphine-3-glucuronide (98%), noroxycodone (95%), methylphenidate (90%), heroin (7%), norfentanyl (7%), and fentanyl (5%). Estimates of average narcotics consumption ranked as follows in units of mg/day/1000 persons: heroin (474 ± 32), cocaine (551 ± 49), amphetamine (256 ± 12), methylphenidate (236 ± 28), methadone (72 ± 8), oxycodone (80 ± 6), alprazolam (60 ± 2), MDMA (88 ± 35), codeine (50 ± 4), and morphine (18 ± 3). This campus-based WBE study yielded baseline data on 12 narcotics for a U.S. campus and demonstrated for the first time the feasibility of detecting the fentanyl metabolite norfentanyl in this setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-444
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
StatePublished - Oct 5 2018


  • College campus
  • Fentanyl
  • Heroin
  • Sewage-based epidemiology
  • Urban metabolism metrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Tracking narcotics consumption at a Southwestern U.S. university campus by wastewater-based epidemiology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this