Novel approaches for the estimation of the use of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs by wastewater analysis, 1.1.2020 - 31.12.2023, Ester Heath


The present project aims at developing innovative analytical and sampling approaches to estimate the (ab)use of illicit drugs and psychoactive pharmaceuticals, e.g. antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, and opioids in the general population. The analysis of human excretion products of substance use in wastewater has the unique properties to deliver such data. The overarching objective is to validate innovative active-passive sampling (APS) and detection strategies for biomarkers of illicit drugs and psychoactive pharmaceuticals to be used for the long-term monitoring of substance use in communities. The hypothesis to be tested is if APS will provide a more convenient sampling strategy compared to daily 24-h composite sampling. We will first develop analytical assays to measure biomarkers of psychoactive pharmaceuticals and drugs in wastewater. Then we will develop APS strategies for the target analytes in influent and effluent wastewater and will investigate the advantages/limitations of the APS strategies in real-life conditions. These new sampling strategies will be compared to the conventional 24-h composite sampling. We will plan sampling campaigns in 5 Slovene and 3 Belgian cities to: estimate for the first time communitywide psychoactive substance use in the Slovene and Belgian cities; evaluate chemical removal efficiencies for the wastewater treatment plants; investigate the utility of APS for improved identification of new psychoactive substances.



ARRS: 300.000,00 EUR


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FWO: 491.400,00 EUR


University of Antwerp - Wikipedia

University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

Main researchers: Adrian Covaci, Alexander van Nuijs, Ronny Blust


ENPIEZO - Meet the team - Jožef Stefan Institute

Jožef Stefan Institute, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Main researchers: Ester Heath, Tina Kosjek, David Heath