Opioid levels in US wastewater spiked during the early pandemic months

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By Chris Stokel-Walker

Pharmacy label for prescription hydrocodone pills. Hydrocodone is an opioid derived from codeine and thiamine. Hydrocodone is an orally active narcotic analgesic (pain reliever) and antitussive (cough suppressant)

Levels of hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller, increased in US sewage during the covid-19 pandemic

GIPHOTOSTOCK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Use of some illicit drugs decreased in the US during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, while prescription opioid use skyrocketed, according to an analysis of wastewater.

Bikram Subedi and colleagues at Murray State University in Kentucky analysed wastewater gathered from two communities in western Kentucky and northern Tennessee between March and July 2020.

Wastewater is water flushed down toilets and sinks from homes that ends up at a sewage treatment plant. “Wastewater has many different …

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