This work presents, for the first time, information on the adsorption–desorption characteristics of illicit drugs and precursors in soils and an estimation of their potential bioavailability. The experiment was conducted using a batch equilibrium technique for the parent drugs methamphetamine and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and the precursor pseudoephedrine in three South Australian soils varying in physiochemical properties. The individual compounds exhibited different adsorption mechanisms in the test soils, and the results fitted better with the Freundlich isotherm model (r2 ≥ 0.99). The maximum adsorption capacity was recorded for pseudoephedrine (2,000 μg g−1). However, pseudoephedrine recorded lower organic carbon normalized adsorption coefficient values (<250 mL g−1), lower magnitudes of Gibb’s free energy change, and higher percent desorption (73–92 %) compared to methamphetamine and MDMA. The results thus showed pseudoephedrine to be the most mobile compound in the soils under study, to have the highest availability for degradation of the three compounds, and to have the highest susceptibility to biotic degradation in test soils.
- Illicit drug