Marin Health Officials Track Illicit Drug Use by Testing Wastewater

“It’s important to gain the trust of the community,” says Halden. “And it will not be monopolized or used in potentially harmful ways by some.”

Halden said data collected at Arizona State University during the pandemic revealed that drug use patterns in the community had changed. Dealers faced the same supply chain disruptions that plagued the consumer market, forcing people to switch what they consumed based on what was available. Knowing what’s popular can help inform education campaigns and target specific prevention strategies to areas where authorities need them most.

For example, if heroin consumption is increasing in a region, law enforcement agencies in that region can stockpile heroin. Naloxone, marketed as Narcan to reverse an overdose. Alternatively, if wastewater testing reveals increased fentanyl use in schools, it may motivate parents to discuss potential threats with their children.

Over time, authorities could also track whether health policies are effective in reducing drug consumption in specific regions.

“Involving other community members using wastewater testing to ensure that those most affected by this overdose crisis are also included in the solutions we are implementing. I hope,” Hannah said.

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