Estimating drug consumption during a college sporting event from wastewater using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry

Dominick J. Lemas, Mathew Shane Loop, Michelle Duong, Andrew Schleffer, Clark Collins, John Alfred Bowden, Xinsong Du, Keval Patel, Austin L. Ciesielski, Zach Ridge, Jarrad Wagner, Bikram Subedi, Chris Delcher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Consumption of licit and/or illicit compounds during sporting events has traditionally been monitored using population surveys, medical records, and law enforcement seizure data. This pilot study evaluated the temporal and geospatial patterns in drug consumption during a university football game from wastewater using liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). Untreated wastewater samples were collected from three locations within or near the same football stadium every 30 min during a university football game. This analysis leveraged two LCMS/ MS instruments (Waters Acquity TQD and a Shimadzu 8040) to analyze samples for 58 licit or illicit compounds and some of their metabolites. Bayesian multilevel models were implemented to estimate mass load and population-level drug consumption, while accounting for multiple instrument runs and concentrations censored at the lower limit of quantitation. Overall, 29 compounds were detected in at least one wastewater sample collected during the game. The 10 most common compounds included opioids, anorectics, stimulants, and decongestants. For compounds detected in more than 50% of samples, temporal trends in median mass load were correlated with the timing of the game; peak loads for cocaine and tramadol occurred during the first quarter of the game and for phentermine during the third quarter. Stadium-wide estimates of the number of doses of drugs consumed were rank ordered as follows: oxycodone (n = 3246) > hydrocodone (n = 2260) > phentermine (n = 513) > cocaine (n = 415) > amphetamine (n = 372) > tramadol (n = 360) > pseudoephedrine (n = 324). This analysis represents the most comprehensive assessment of drug consumption during a university football game and indicates that wastewater-based epidemiology has potential to inform public health interventions focused on reducing recreational drug consumption during large-scale sporting events.

Original languageEnglish
Article number143963
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Apr 10 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier B.V.


  • Football game
  • Illicit and prescription drugs
  • Mass spectrometry
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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