Forget about lying on annual federal drug use surveys. Researchers at the Oregon State University and the University Washington have figured out a better way to track a community's use of illicit recreational drugs–check their sewage for drug residues. The press release describing the work says:
Public health officials may soon be able to flush out more accurate estimates on illegal drug use in communities across the country thanks to screening test described here today at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The test doesn't screen people, it seeks out evidence of illicit drug abuse in drug residues and metabolites excreted in urine and flushed toward municipal sewage treatment plants. …
Preliminary tests conducted in 10 U.S. cities show the method can simultaneously quantify methamphetamine and metabolites of cocaine and marijuana and legal drugs such as methadone, oxycodone, and ephedrine, according to Aurea Chiaia, a graduate student who is working to refine the process and described details at the ACS meeting.
"Because our method can provide data in real time, we anticipate it might be used to help law officials undertaking surveillance to make intervention or prevention decisions or to decide where to allocate resources," Chiaia says.
One day those guys digging up your sewer connection might be DEA agents. Whole press release here.