Wastewater analysis of substance use: Implications for law, policy and research

Jeremy Prichard, Foon Yin Lai, Emma Van Dyken, Phong Thai, Raimondo Bruno, Wayne Hall, Paul Kirkbride, Coral Gartner, Jake O'Brien, Jochen F. Mueller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article seeks to encourage informed cross-disciplinary discourse about wastewater analysis (WWA)-a method of estimating substance use in very large populations via the analysis of samples of sewage water. It examines Australia's policy platform for responding to substance use, the National Drug Strategy (NDS), and considers the evidence base underpinning it, particularly the metrics that are provided by national drug-monitoring systems. The article discusses the strengths of WWA and suggests the method could usefully augment existing monitoring systems. To demonstrate the flexibility, efficiency and scope of WWA, key findings are presented from the first national WWA study, which encapsulated sewage samples from approximately 40% of the Australian population. Opportunities forWWA to inform time-sensitive issues in particular communities are also explored. The article encourages health and criminal justice portfolios to engage withWWA to ensure it is put to best effect for policy purposes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)837-849
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Law and Medicine
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Wastewater analysis (WWA)
  • drug-monitoring
  • substance use
  • National drug control policy
  • Health Justice
  • criminal justice


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