Occurrence of drugs of abuse in surface water from four Spanish river basins: Spatial and temporal variations and environmental risk assessment

J Hazard Mater. 2016 Oct 5:316:134-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2016.05.025. Epub 2016 May 9.


The present work investigates the occurrence of 22 drugs of abuse (DAs) and metabolites in surface water from four Spanish River basins: Llobregat, Ebro, Jucar and Guadalquivir. To this end, samples were collected from 77 selected sites in two sampling campaigns conducted in 2010 and 2011. Analyses were performed by means of on-line solid phase extraction-liquid chromatography-electrospray-tandem mass spectrometry (on-line SPE-LC-ESI-MS/MS). Cocaine, its metabolite benzoylecgonine, ephedrine, MDMA (ecstasy), and methadone and its metabolite EDDP were the most ubiquitous compounds, being present in more than 50% of the samples. Overall, DAs were present at low ng/L levels, showing comparatively higher concentrations in small tributary rivers impacted by wastewater treatment plant effluents. The results obtained did not show a clear relationship between the concentrations of DAs and the hydrological conditions of the river basins. Differences in the occurrence of DAs between river basins were observed, but only for MDMA this finding could be confirmed in both sampling campaigns. These results overall suggest similar drugs consumption in the studied areas. Estimation of potential ecotoxicological effects using Hazard Quotient (HQ) ratios and a concentration addition model showed that in four samples the presence of DAs could represent certain risk to aquatic organisms.

Keywords: Emerging contaminants; Environmental impact; Illicit drugs; Liquid chromatography-; River water monitoring; tandem mass spectrometry.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cocaine / analogs & derivatives
  • Cocaine / chemistry
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Ephedrine / chemistry
  • Geography
  • Illicit Drugs / analysis*
  • Methadone / chemistry
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine / chemistry
  • Pyrrolidines / chemistry
  • Risk Assessment
  • Rivers
  • Spain
  • Spatio-Temporal Analysis
  • Water / chemistry
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water
  • benzoylecgonine
  • Ephedrine
  • Cocaine
  • N-Methyl-3,4-methylenedioxyamphetamine
  • Methadone
  • 2-ethylidene-1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine