Trends in drug consumption during COVID-19 pandemic using wastewater-based epidemiology

Project Abstract

In addition to a dramatic loss of human life, the COVID-19 pandemic caused devastating disruption in social, economic, and overall public health. Drug abuse was increased by 36% in the United States and resulted in 30% more overdoses in Kentucky comparing monthly data to previous years. CDC estimated an increased percentage of people to start or increased consumption during the pandemic. We determined 39 most commonly abused illicit and prescribed drugs including stimulants, opioids, and antidepressants in two communities in Kentucky and Tennessee during the first 4 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The consumption of one of the most abused opioids, hydrocodone, was steadily increased (72%) from March to July 2020, potentially resulted from the tele-prescription approved refills owing to the inaccessibility of in-person hospital appointments. However, the methamphetamine and cocaine consumptions were decreased by 16% and 40%, respectively, which are similar to the conventional estimate of decreased statewide possession citations of methamphetamine (12.6%) and cocaine (54%) from the first to second quarters of 2020 reported by the Kentucky Substance Use Research and Enforcement. The significant impact in the economy in early COVID-pandemic months, limited availability of illicit drugs in these communities, and the overall global disruptions in the supply chain of drugs potentially resulted in a decreased consumption of illegal stimulants in early COVID-pandemic periods. This demonstrates that the wastewater-based epidemiological estimations can provide a near-accurate trend of drug prevalence in the community.


American Chemical Society National Meeting

Dates: August 22-26

Sponsoring body: Environmental Chemistry Division of American Chemical Society

Conference website:

Funding Type

Travel Grant

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology


Chemistry Area


B.S. Chemistry




Bikram Subedi, PhD

Academic College

Jesse D. Jones College of Science, Engineering and Technology

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