In 2016, opioids were the primary cause of more than 42,000 deaths in the U.S. Controlled substances (opioids and other drugs, such as marijuana) pose a threat to both human and environmental health. With the crisis showing no signs of slowing down, officials across the country are scrambling to implement effective intervention programs in their communities, but the impact of these initiatives can be difficult to track as much of the data relies of self-reporting where current stigmatizations prevent individuals from giving accurate reports. Several presentations at the 2018 Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) Annual Meeting will explore novel approaches to monitoring real-time drug use in town and cities nationwide.
Opioid use has reached epidemic levels across the U.S., with more than 130 people dying each day from overdoses and billions spent in healthcare costs. One of the challenges to curbing the epidemic is a lack of real-time information on drug supply and demand—current data sources rely on self-reported surveys with a two-year lag before data are available. Municipal wastewater testing is an innovative approach that can supplement existing data by providing more rapid, cost-effective and unbiased measures of drug use in a particular area.