Cocaine and metabolites in waste and surface water across Belgium.Environ Pollut. 2009 Jan; 157(1):123-9.EP
Cocaine abuse, a growing social problem, is currently estimated from population surveys, consumer interviews and crime statistics. A new approach based on the analysis of cocaine (COC) and metabolites, benzoylecgonine (BE) and ecgonine methyl ester (EME), in water samples was applied to 28 rivers and 37 waste water treatment plants in Belgium using solid-phase extraction and liquid chromatography coupled to tandem mass spectrometry. While EME was undetectable, COC and BE were detectable with concentrations ranging from <1 to 753 ng/L and <1 to 2258 ng/L, respectively. BE concentrations were employed to calculate the local amount of abused cocaine. The highest values (up to 1.8 g/day cocaine per 1000 inhabitants) were found in large cities and during weekends. The estimation of cocaine abuse through water analysis can be executed on regular basis without cooperation of patients. It also gives clear geographical information, while prevention campaigns can easily be implemented and evaluated.