Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Mining chemical information in Swedish wastewaters for simultaneous assessment of population consumption, treatment efficiency and environmental discharge of illicit drugs

Haalck, Inga; Loffler, Paul; Baduel, Christine; Wiberg, Karin; Ahrens, Lutz; Lai, Foon Yin


Consumption of illicit drugs poses health risks to the public and environment. Knowledge on their usage helps better implementations of intervention strategies to reduce drug-related harms in the society and also policies to limit their releases as emerging contaminants to recipient environments. This study aimed to investigate from the daily consumption to treatment efficiency and subsequent discharge of illicit drugs by the Swedish urban populations based on simultaneous collection and analysis of influent and effluent wastewater. Two different weekly monitoring campaigns showed similar drug prevalence in Stockholm and Uppsala, with amphetamine as the most popular drug. Almost all target drug residues were still measurable in effluent wastewater. High removal efficiencies (>94%) were observed for amphetamine, cocaine and benzoylecgonine, whereas ketamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), mephedrone and methamphetamine were the least removed substances (<64%), with the highest discharge observed for MDMA in both catchments (similar to 3.0 g/day in Uppsala;similar to 18 g/day in Stockholm). Our study provides new insights into short-term changes in the use and related discharge of illicit drugs by urban populations. Such wastewater monitoring can provide useful information to public health, forensic and environmental authorities in planning future intervention and regulation policies.

Published in

Scientific Reports
2021, Volume: 11, number: 1, article number: 13510