Wastewater analysis reveals urban, suburban, and rural spatial patterns of illicit drug use in Dalian, China

Abstract

Illicit drug use in rural and suburban areas of China has not been studied extensively, as most studies have focused on illicit drug use in urban areas. To compare the differences between urban, suburban, and rural drug use, we collected influent samples from 19 urban, 9 suburban, and 18 rural wastewater treatment plants in Dalian, respectively. A method using solid-phase extraction combined with derivatization for gas chromatography-mass spectrometry analysis was applied to detect biomarker concentrations. The concentrations of methamphetamine and morphine ranged from 3.12 to 605 ng/L and < 2.35 to 198 ng/L, respectively. Norketamine was found in only four samples (5.56 to 14.5 ng/L), while 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine and benzoylecgonine were not detected in any samples. Methamphetamine use in rural areas (16.3 mg/day/1000 inhabitant (inh), prevalence: 0.06%) was significantly lower than those in urban (77.1 mg/day/1000 inh, prevalence: 0.23%) and suburban (234 mg/day/1000 inh, prevalence: 0.70%) areas. Heroin use in suburban areas (57.6 mg/day/1000 inh, prevalence: 0.10%) was significantly higher than that in urban (13.9 mg/day/1000 inh, prevalence: 0.02%) and rural (8.68 mg/day/1000 inh, prevalence: 0.02%) areas. The results indicate relatively low levels of illicit drug use in rural areas of Dalian, related to low incomes and outflow of the working-age population. Illicit drug use was most prevalent in suburban areas of Dalian, which may be influenced by large floating populations and few anti-drug efforts in suburban areas.

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Funding

This study was supported by Science and Technology Innovation Foundation of Dalian (No. 2018J12GX043 and No. 2019J13SN123) and Key Research and Development Plan Program of Liaoning Province.

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Zi-Xiang Cong: methodology, writing—original draft; Xue-Ting Shao: writing—original draft, review and editing, supervision, validation; Si-Yu Liu: formal analysis and investigation; We Pei: writing—review and editing; De-Gao Wang: writing—review and editing

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Correspondence to De-Gao Wang.

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Cong, ZX., Shao, XT., Liu, SY. et al. Wastewater analysis reveals urban, suburban, and rural spatial patterns of illicit drug use in Dalian, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-021-12371-5

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Keywords

  • Wastewater-based epidemiology
  • Spatial patterns
  • Illicit drug use
  • Biomarkers