Allergy drugs and bleach responsible for designer drug traces found in South Australian watersheds

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New study reporting small amounts of designer drug methcathinone in South Australian sewage may have more to do with allergy medications and laundry detergents than illegal drug use .

This is the conclusion of epidemiologists from the University of South Australia who say that the lingering traces of the banned recreational drug in local watersheds are more likely due to the oxidation of pseudoephedrine and sodium percarbonate in the sewage system.

In an article published in Total Environmental Scienceresearchers investigated why low levels of methcathinone appeared in state wastewater consistently, rather than sporadically, which would be more consistent with typical designer drug use.

The most plausible explanation is that methcathinone may result from the breakdown of pseudoephedrine used to relieve nasal or sinus congestion. The conversion is promoted by chemical reagents in bleach and detergents containing percarbonate.

UniSA wastewater epidemiologist Cobus Gerber said methcathinone is one of the most common synthetic psychoactive substances found in wastewater in Australia, North America, parts of Europe and the United States. China.

“It is an illegal stimulant that can have devastating consequences, including neurotoxic effects such as tremors, seizures, restlessness and insomnia,” says Professor Assoc Gerber.

“Because methcathinone can be synthesized from over-the-counter cold remedies containing pseudoephedrine, as well as oxidation in sewers by bleach and percarbonate, it can be difficult to determine the source of its presence in our wastewater.

“Normally, the use of these designer recreational drugs is sporadic, supply-driven and stems from online purchases. It does not follow a consistent pattern, which prompted us to investigate further. This is probably the only illegal drug found in sewage which can also be traced to prescription drugs.”

A total of 448 wastewater samples were collected and analyzed at eight treatment plants in South Australia between June 2020 and August 2021. In all cases, the ratio of methcathinone to pseudoephedrine (1.53%) was relatively constant, which confirms the theory of the scientists.


Sewage helps decipher the popularity of new synthetic drugs


More information:
Bradley S. Simpson et al, Methcathinone in wastewater: drug of choice or artifact?, Total Environmental Science (2022). DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2022.155696

Provided by the University of South Australia

Quote: Allergy drugs and bleach responsible for designer drug traces found in South Australian watersheds (2022, June 7) Retrieved June 8, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022- 06-allergy-medication-responsible-drug-sud.html

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