Sewer water to determine drug use of residents

Summary

Researchers from Antwerp University are collecting sewer water in Lier, Antwerp province, to see if anonymous questionnaires about illegal drug use match up to the reality

Lier is centre of new project

For three months, scientists from Antwerp University will take daily samples of sewer water in Lier. They want to know if citizens are telling the truth about their use of illegal drugs.

The fieldwork in Lier, a medium-sized city just east of Antwerp, is part of a wider European project to map the presence of drugs in the sewage of several cities in Europe. It’s well-known that drugs (both soft and hard) leave traces in sewer water in the form of metabolites that leave users’ bodies via their urine. Metabolites, according to researchers, are an objective way to measure the drug use in a city.

The other goal of the project is to “calibrate” answers people give in anonymous surveys concerning drug use and addiction. That’s why the analysis of the sewage in Lier is combined with a thorough (but voluntary) inquiry of its citizens.

The researchers behind the project want to know what mathematical relationship there is between the drug use reported by people in these kinds of surveys and actual drug use. This information can offer improvements to drug use monitoring systems.

But why Lier? “It’s certainly not the case that Lier has a bad reputation in the area of drug use,” explains researcher Alexander Van Nuijs. “With nearly 35,000 inhabitants, this city has a manageable population, and it is also possible here to match the collection of sewer water with the city’s boundaries so that no other city’s water is mixed in with it.”

Researchers from Antwerp University are collecting sewer water in Lier, Antwerp province, to see if anonymous questionnaires about illegal drug use match up to the reality.

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University of Antwerp

The University of Antwerp is Flanders’ youngest university, but it has quickly made a name for itself in natural and biomedical science research. It is the region’s third-largest university.
Merger - The university was born from the merger of three institutions with roots dating back to 1852.
Ranking - The university placed 13th in the World University Ranking “Top 50 Universities Under 50 years”.
Epidemiology - It was the first university in Flanders to offer a Master’s degree in epidemiology.
2 003

university was founded

13

percentage of international students

9

campuses across the city