Forensic Science Institute to study wastewater for drug use

Tallinna Vesi's Paljassaare Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Tallinna Vesi's Paljassaare Wastewater Treatment Plant. Source: Tallinna Vesi

The Ministry of Justice and the Forensic Science Institute (EKEI) will start monitoring the extent of drug use in Estonia from the beginning of the new year by analyzing wastewater for traces of illicit drugs.

"Criminal policy must be based on data and analysis," Mari-Liis Soot, head of the analysis unit at the Ministry of Justice, said in a press release on Friday.

"Analysis of wastewater for drug monitoring is a promising and evolving method, also internationally, bringing together researchers and policy makers from different fields," Soot said.

Of areas of research, criminology, chemistry and epidemiology are involved. Monitoring enables the authorities to learn about people's drug use habits and changes therein, allowing the state to better plan prevention and policies, the head of the analysis unit said, adding that in this way, municipalities also have more accurate knowledge of what is happening in their region.

Wastewater samples for drug use monitoring are planned to be taken in Tallinn, Kohtla-Järve, Pärnu, Viljandi and Võru. The first samples will be taken in mid-January and the results will be available in February. In the future, wastewater samples will be analyzed for traces of drugs once every quarter.

The substances to be traced are amphetamine, methamphetamine, MDMA, cocaine and methadone. Monitoring for cannabis will be conducted twice a year.

Aime Riikoja, head of the department of chemistry at EKEI, described samples of sewage as an essential complement to drug seizure information from the police and the tax and customs authorities and toxicological analyses. All three elements help to build a comprehensive picture and reduce the possibility of error in the interpretation of results, she said.

Sampling will be done by the Estonian Environmental Research Center and the samples will be analyzed by EKEI.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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