Monitoring substance use in prisons: Assessing the potential value of wastewater analysis

Emma van Dyken, Phong Thai, Foon Lai, Christoph Ort, Jeremy Prichard, Raimondo Bruno, Wayne Hall, Kenneth Kirkbride, Jochen Mueller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Prison substance use is a major concern for prison authorities and the wider community. Australia has responded to this problem by implementing the National Corrections Drug Strategy. Across Australia, the true extent of prison substance use cannot be determined. As a result, the effectiveness of the interventions employed as part of this strategy cannot be properly assessed. This has important implications for the allocation of corrective services resources and future policy development. This article explores the benefits and limitations, as well as the ethical and practical issues in using wastewater analysis (WWA) to measure levels of substance use in prisons. It reports results from the first application of WWA to an Australian prison, which supports the use of WWA in this context. Given the increasing concern for prescription misuse in prisons, we also highlight the novel use of WWA to measure the extent of prescription misuse by prisoners. The article concludes that as a result of its objectivity, sensitivity and cost-effectiveness, the use of WWA in prisons warrants further consideration in Australia.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)338-345
    Number of pages8
    JournalScience and Justice
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2014


    • Australia
    • Drug-monitoring
    • Drug-use
    • Prison
    • Sewage epidemiology


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