Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: What the wastewater tells us about drugs

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  • Rich of Observationz,

    I'd assume that since typical LSD doses are physically about a thousand times less than most other drugs, then detection would be a substantial challenge.

    What I'd be interested in is whether the researchers have considered using commonly prescribed drugs (ACE inhibitors, or antibiotics, for instance) as a baseline reference for dispersal levels in the sewage system - the usage levels should be obtainable from DHBs or Pharmac and could be compared with metabolite levels.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5528 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    I’d assume that since typical LSD doses are physically about a thousand times less than most other drugs, then detection would be a substantial challenge.

    Yes, I thought that would have been the reason too.

    What I’d be interested in is whether the researchers have considered using commonly prescribed drugs (ACE inhibitors, or antibiotics, for instance) as a baseline reference for dispersal levels in the sewage system – the usage levels should be obtainable from DHBs or Pharmac and could be compared with metabolite levels.

    The Police/ESR wastewater study uses creatinine as a control, but I'm not sure what that involves.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    The Police/ESR wastewater study uses creatinine as a control, but I'm not sure what that involves.

    That must be how they figure out how much of the drug isn't the stash that gets flushed when the squad bursted in the door, or the flushing that happens when people arrive home fresh out of rehab.

    Is Ritalin a methamphetamine?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3845 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to steven crawford,

    Is Ritalin a methamphetamine?

    I forgot to ask Chris about that, but I think it would be picked up as an amphetamine (which were fairly prevalent, in about 60% of samples), not methamphetamine.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Creatinine could be a more general control for volume of kidney output, as opposed to volume of water flow through the sewage system, which will also depend on other factors such as rainfall; hence it would allow normalisation of other readings to refer back to numbers of people.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1735 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to linger,

    Ah, that makes sense. Cheers.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Of course some of those are legal drugs - I had surgery last week and they sent me home with codeine ... I guess you have to control for legal doses to get something meaningful

    I wonder if sudafed/etc show up as meth?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2550 posts Report Reply

  • Stamper Stamp,

    So?
    What does this tell us about the anecdotal evidence which P.M. English has received about drugs being a problem for some Employers trying to hire new drug free staff?

    Auckland • Since Feb 2014 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Ritalin isn't an amphetamine, it isn't even a phenylamine, so unlikely to test similarly.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5528 posts Report Reply

  • Thomas Lumley, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Ritalin's not, but there is an amphetamine prescribed for ADHD.

    Auckland • Since Feb 2013 • 41 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Ritalin isn't an amphetamine, it isn't even a phenylamine, so unlikely to test similarly.

    Thought so. Back when recreational methamphetamine was sourced from compliant doctors, who'd prescribe pharmaceutical methedrine largely for weight loss, users disparaged ritalin as "plastic meth" once they discovered that popping it wasn't much fun.

    As even those who weren't there know it was a pretty sexist world in the old days. Young women only had to express a wish to look like Twiggy in order to score from certain benevolent male MDs. I remember a chubby male acquaintance deciding to cut out the middle woman and try it for himself with a doctor renowned for his generous prescribing habits. Instead of the hoped-for scrip for a big bottle of black bombers, all he got was OK fat cat, here's a diet sheet and try to exercise more.

    All of this of course is anecdotal, but if it's good enough for Bill English...

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4512 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    if it’s good enough for Bill English

    Knew he had to be on something to be coming out with that … :-)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1735 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Pretty amazing idea. Hard to see how a steady flow of this kind of information could be anything but a boon for informing public policy on a whole range of issues.

    Outright incredible that the byproducts of 600g of any substance is detectable in the hundreds of millions of liters of wastewater produced in Auckland daily. Also incredible to think that the entire daily consumption of P in Auckland could fit in an old pint-sized milk bottle. No wonder it's so compelling to deal in the stuff.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10488 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Ritalin isn’t an amphetamine, it isn’t even a phenylamine, so unlikely to test similarly.

    You're right! I'd somehow thought it was technically an amphetamine, but I was wrong.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Outright incredible that the byproducts of 600g of any substance is detectable in the hundreds of millions of liters of wastewater produced in Auckland daily.M

    It is, huh? But this is a well-established form of sampling these days.

    Also incredible to think that the entire daily consumption of P in Auckland could fit in an old pint-sized milk bottle. No wonder it’s so compelling to deal in the stuff.

    Quite. Compare and contrast to bulky, smelly, takes-ages-and-heaps-of-electricity-to-grow marijuana. The relative business case is fairly compelling.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Russell Brown,

    This is actually what bugged me about the Proceeds of Crime cash going to yet more helicopter recovery.

    It makes a good press release, but it’s hugely expensive and while it might cause some short-term supply reduction, it does not at all reduce the use of cannabis or make that use safer.

    It also makes for soft, easy targets – someone who’s growing for medical in the Waitakeres (this actually happened to people last year)). And meanwhile, the organised criminals prepared to take the risk of setting up industrial grows in warehouses continue to produce most of the weed that Auckland consumes. They’re still in a more risky business than meth dealers, of course.

    It really doesn’t make sense.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    It really doesn’t make sense.

    Sure doesn't. Meanwhile lots of people die from alcohol, and many lives, careers, and families (not to mention brain cells) are destroyed by alcohol every year, and you can still freely buy from the corner dairy tobacco that basically ruins the health of and then kills a very large proportion of users, and is an endless monkey on their backs, typically for their whole lives. And because of that 600g of P, there's basically no effective relief from the symptoms of colds and flus for the entire population, causing millions of hours of needless suffering and lost productivity. Cancer sufferers have to deal with criminals to get pain relief, and resources are diverted from much more serious lawbreaking.

    But we digress.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10488 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to BenWilson,

    Step right up!

    Outright incredible that the byproducts of 600g of any substance is detectable in the hundreds of millions of liters of wastewater produced in Auckland daily.

    I detect a viable market for Homoeopathic P -water!

    Meanwhile back at Viagra Falls,
    Holmes is over a barrel....

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7480 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to BenWilson,

    Oh – look at that. Tasman police put down the flying toys this summer.

    A 75 per cent drop in cannabis plants recovered from the annual top of the south and the West Coast drug operation followed a police decision not to use helicopters this year.

    Police said on Monday they had seized and destroyed 2200 cannabis plants this year from the two regions, 1300 from the Coast and 900 from the top of the south.

    That compares to a total of around 9000 plants (6000 in the top of the south, 3000 from the Coast) last year when police used military helicopters in the operation.

    In 2015 an estimated 4000 plants were recovered across the Tasman police district, also using helicopters.

    Tasman District Commander Superintendent Mike Johnson said a decision was made to complete this year's operation using a "targeted, focused deployment model that did not include an aerial recovery phase".

    "Police makes operational decisions every day on the best use of resources on a case-by-case basis," Johnson said.

    "Police use a variety of tools and tactics to detect and recover cannabis at all times not just during the annual cannabis recovery operation. In some situations helicopters are used, but this is not necessarily appropriate in all circumstances."

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Along the same lines... West Coast cannabis haul plummets 43 per cent

    This year's annual cannabis operation on the Coast netted less than half the number of cannabis plants found last year when police used helicopters in the search.

    Police announced yesterday they had seized 1300 cannabis plants across the Coast and would charge seven people in relation to the operation.

    And...

    This year's operation began two weeks ago. Thirty police staff have been involved.

    What's the cost of tying up thirty cops for two weeks, plus helicopters? I bet it far exceeds the retail value of 1,300 plants.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1318 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Alfie,

    plus helicopters

    Doesn't it say that they didn't use the choppers this time for the 1300 plant haul?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7480 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Doesn’t it say that they didn’t use the choppers this time for the 1300 plant haul?

    It does.

    But man, that's still 30 officers who could have been doing something else, 50 site visits and who-knows-how-much paperwork time to get it all to court. All in the service of making meth look safer and easier to trade in than weed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22227 posts Report Reply

  • Alfie, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Whoops... my bad Ian. And Russell is right. The amount of resource Police devote to chasing a relatively benign weed is out of proportion when NZ's main drug problem is meth.

    At least the cops appear to have ceased their rather silly practice of quoting invented and over-inflated dollar amounts of "social harm" prevented every time they bust a small time grower. Maybe the tide is changing... slowly.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1318 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Alfie,

    What's the cost of tying up thirty cops for two weeks, plus helicopters? I bet it far exceeds the retail value of 1,300 plants.

    Unlike some other confiscated goods, police don't actually sell the cannabis they find on those expeditions. So any cost-benefit analysis based on what undercover cops pay for weed is completely irrelevant. Although... maybe they should?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1020 posts Report Reply

  • william blake,

    With the result of forcing the price of cannabis up or worse creating such a scarcity of NZs (illicit) drug of choice, that people turn to methamphetamine.

    Since Mar 2010 • 350 posts Report Reply

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