Trends in methamphetamine residues in wastewater in metropolitan and regional cities in south-east Queensland, 2009–2015

Foon Yin Lai, Jake O'Brien, Phong K Thai, Wayne D Hall and Jochen Mueller
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (4): 151-152. || doi: 10.5694/mja15.01054

Over the past several years, the Australian media have reported increased use and harm arising from the use of crystal methamphetamine (“ice”),1,2 a highly pure form of the drug that can be smoked or injected.2 We used wastewater analysis to examine trends in methamphetamine residues in wastewater samples from the inlets of two treatment plants in south-east Queensland. One plant served a coastal metropolitan city that included entertainment precincts and the other a major inland regional city.

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  • Foon Yin Lai1
  • Jake O'Brien1
  • Phong K Thai1,2
  • Wayne D Hall3
  • Jochen Mueller1

  • 1 National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD
  • 2 International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, QLD
  • 3 Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD



We write on behalf of the Wastewater Analysis and Research Network, a multidisciplinary research team consisting of analytical chemists (Steve Carter and Shalona Anuj), a sewage engineer (Christoph Ort), an environmental public health researcher (Coral Gartner), a criminologist (Jeremy Prichard), a forensic scientist (Paul Kirkbride), a drug use epidemiologist (Raimondo Bruno) and a statistician (Melissa Humphries). The National Research Centre for Environmental Toxicology is a joint venture of the University of Queensland and Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services. We acknowledge the financial support from the Australian Crime Commission and the Crime and Corruption Commission Queensland. We thank the regional council for the sampling opportunity. Jochen Mueller is funded through the Australian Research Council Future Fellowship. Phong K Thai was funded by a University of Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and is currently funded by a Queensland University of Technology Vice-Chancellorboyuan;rsquo;s Research Fellowship. Jake Oboyuan;apos;Brien is funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship.

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Australian Broadcasting Commission. Full coverage: Australia’s war on ice. 2015. (accessed Sep 2015).
  • 2. Lee N. Are we in the midst of an ice epidemic? A snapshot of meth use in Australia. The Conversation 2015; 8 Apr 8. (accessed Sep 2015).
  • 3. Daughton CG. Illicit drugs: contaminants in the environment and utility in forensic epidemiology. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol 2011; 210: 59-110.
  • 4. Tscharke BJ, Chen C, Gerber JP, White JM. Trends in stimulant use in Australia: a comparison of wastewater analysis and population surveys. Sci Total Environ 2015; 536: 331-337.
  • 5. Degenhardt L, Larney S, Chan G, et al. Estimating the number of regular and dependent methamphetamine users in Australia, 2002–2014. Med J Aust 2016; 204: 153, 153.e1-153.e6.


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