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Workplace Wastewater Drug Testing – A Real-Time Snapshot of Actual Drug Use Rates in Australia

Dr. Philip Tynan
National Toxicologist, Safe Work Laboratories

It is widely accepted Customs and Police Drug confiscation, self-report surveys (such as the National Household Drug Survey), and roadside and workplace drug testing give only a crude picture of overall community drug use. By assaying drug concentrations in sewage effluent, it is possible to obtain timely information on the actual spectrum of drugs used at a site and calculate the average drug dose per person.

Wastewater Drug Testing has been used internationally and in Australia (in the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program 2016 – 2019) to measure and interpret drug use within national populations and at selected worksites enabling the identification of problem areas, drugs of concern and monitoring changes in use patterns. A great advantage of Wastewater drug analysis is that it is not subject to response bias and can be used as an outcome measurement tool to gauge the effectiveness of a workplace’s drug use intervention strategy. Workplace drug use may reflect local drug use but as Australian workplace studies (including minesites) have shown, it can often be a reflection of the unique drug-taking culture at that workplace.

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