Global study uncovers Queensland meth hotspot


TOOWOOMBA has been identified as a meth hotspot, in the biggest wastewater-based study undertaken in the world.

A seven-year project monitoring illicit drug use in 37 countries and 120 cities worldwide has highlighted a serious problem with methamphetamine use in Toowoomba with a 170 per cent increase in use in three years.

In a paper published today in Addiction, researchers from 41 international institutions released their findings after analysing sewage samples from 60m people between 2011 and 2017.

One of the lead authors was University of South Australia chemist Dr Richard Bade. The University of Queensland was also involved in the investigation which looked at wastewater samples in three Australian cities - Toowoomba Canberra and Adelaide.

Results show Australia had a serious problem with methamphetamine while cocaine use was skyrocketing in Europe.

In 2017, Adelaide's wastewater was monitored for a week, revealing between 507 and 659 milligrams of methamphetamine per 1000 people each day. In contrast, both Canberra and Toowoomba recorded levels of between 271-331 milligrams of methamphetamine.

Canberra and Toowoomba were also monitored in 2014 and 2015, showing a 170 per cent increase in methamphetamine use in both cities in a three-year period. Adelaide was only monitored once.

Dr Bade, an analytical chemist in UniSA's School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, says methamphetamine use is linked to several health conditions, including mental disorders, elevated heart rates and domestic violence.

"It's important we determine the scale of the illicit drug market so that countries can work out the best way to tackle a $100bn industry, which is contributing to the global burden of disease and affecting the economic development of many countries," he said.