Detection of drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals in drinking water




Journal Title

Journal ISSN



Volume Title




Peer reviewed



The focus of this study is to develop a suitable extraction and analytical method for the detection of drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals in drinking water. This is in response to concerns that traditional and current water treatment methods do not remove these types of pollutants and subsequently could have an impact on the quality of drinking water and health. This research has successfully developed a Liquid Chromatography- Mass Spectrometry method (LC-MS) for the simultaneous detection and quantification of 20 drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals, including not only traditional illicit drugs (cocaine, ketamine and amphetamines) and antidepressants, but also novel psychoactive substances (NPSs) (cathinones, piperazines and synthetic cannabinoids). The method also includes a solid phase extraction step to clean and concentrate the water samples. This is the first time that NPSs have been investigated in the analysis of drinking water. Moreover, this study has also proved LC-MS is capable of quantifying the studied drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals at ultra-trace levels. The detection (LODs) and quantification limits (LOQs) of this simultaneous method (0.0045 - 1.1508 ng/L and 0.0151 - 3.8361 ng/L respectively) are also comparable to other studies using Liquid Chromatography-Tandem Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). This investigation has detected a number of drugs of abuse and antidepressants in drinking water samples from the East Anglian region. This highlights the need for the development of early monitoring strategies for such compounds in drinking water, as little is known of the possible accumulation and the health impact with their presence in the environment.



drinking water analysis, drugs of abuse, LC-MS, novel psychoactive substances


Peng, Y., Hall, S., and Gautam, L. (2016) Detection of drugs of abuse and pharmaceuticals in drinking water. International Conference on Environmental Pollution and Public Health, China, May.


Research Institute