The first application of wastewater-based drug epidemiology in five South Korean cities.Sci Total Environ 2015; 524-525:440-6ST
Illicit drug consumption in five cities in South Korea was estimated by analyzing 17 drug residues in untreated wastewater samples collected during the Christmas and New Year period of 2012-13. Only methamphetamine, amphetamine, and codeine were detected at concentrations of tens of nanograms per liter or even lower concentrations in more than 90% of the samples. Other illicit drug residues (including cocaine, methadone, and benzoylecgonine) that have been detected frequently in wastewater from other countries were not found in this study. Methamphetamine was found to be the most widely used illicit drug in South Korea, and the estimated average consumption rate was 22 mg d(-1) (1000 people)(-1). This rate is, for example, 2-5 times lower than the estimated average consumption rates in Hong Kong and other parts of China and 4-80 times lower than the estimated average consumption rates in cities in Western countries. It should be noted that the wastewater samples analyzed in this study were collected during a holiday season, when daily consumption of illicit drugs is often higher than on an average day. The methamphetamine usage rates were calculated for different cities in South Korea, and the usage rates in smaller cities was higher (2-4 times) than the average.