The estimation of illicit drugs use through wastewater analysis has become an important issue in the last few years due to their large worldwide consumption, which results in economic, social and health costs. The amounts of urinary biomarkers of illicit drugs (selected drugs or their metabolites) measured in wastewater are used to back-calculate the consumption of a particular drug by the population and to monitor temporal and spatial trends of illicit drug use in a community. The reliability of back-calculation depends on different factors, one being the accuracy of correction factors. A wide range of correction factors have been used in different studies and some biases must be expected when comparing results. Most of the correction factors were developed several years ago, so they need to be updated to include the latest information on pharmacokinetics. Moreover, new comprehensive methods to treat data should be adopted. The goal of this study is to refine current correction factors for back-calculation of the most widely used illicit drugs: amphetamine, methamphetamine, 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The mean percentages of excretion of the parent drugs and their metabolites were calculated for each route of administration, utilizing all accessible pharmacokinetic studies in the literature. This allowed to select the most suitable drug target residue and a refined correction factor was obtained for each substance considering the most frequent route of administration. The refined correction factors we propose can be used in wastewater based epidemiology to standardize the back-calculation of these drugs. These results can be included in the best practice protocol currently adopted in EU studies in order to reduce uncertainty and improve the comparability of results.
Keywords: 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA); Amphetamine; Back-calculation; Correction factors; Methamphetamine; Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
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