Australians may be partying harder than previously thought, according to our water.
Researchers from the University of South Australia, led by Richard Bade, found that wastewater samples contained evidence of high drug use by over the summer season, including use of designer drugs in eight countries, including Australia.
Australia, along with New Zealand, the USA and the Netherlands had the highest consumption of designer party drugs during the 2019/2020 New Year period, according to the study, published in Water Research.
The team tested for 200 synthetic drugs in sites across Australia, New Zealand, China, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Norway and the United States. They found that the Netherlands was the only country that didn’t have samples of new psychotic substances – drugs that mimic other illicit drugs, such as cannabis, Cocaine, MDMA and LSD.
One of these was found only in Australia and New Zealand, with a 20-fold spike in usage on New Year’s Eve in New Zealand. This drug was mephedrone, which is often colloquially named drone, White Magic or meow meow.
“It is a very powerful drug that produces effects similar to those of cocaine and MDMA and is popular among ecstasy and stimulant users in Australia and NZ,” says Bade.
Australia and New Zealand also had traces of eutylone, another synthetic drug that is often marketed as MDMA and has dangerously intense side-effects in high doses.
Dr Bade says he hopes the data collected from wastewater samples helps complement efforts made by hospitals, forensics and legal data and global surveys, to identify patterns of use of potentially dangerous designer drugs.
Dr Deborah Devis is a science journalist at The Royal Institution of Australia.
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