Wastewater Analysis for Drug Monitoring in Correctional Facilities

Queensland Corrective Services

This project aims to estimate the use of a range of licit and illicit drugs by the population of the correctional facilities. Wastewater samples are collected from correctional facilities across Queensland every quarter and analysed to determine the prevalence of specific prescription medications and illicit drugs. The data collected provides a comparison between the drug use pattern of the population in correctional facilities and the general population of Queensland as recorded in the National Report. In addition, this project enables us to identify if there is any misuse of prescription medications in the correctional facilities, by comparing the estimated results with the pharmacy statistics provided by the correctional facilities.


Most of the estimated prescription medication consumed by the correctional facilities population is in line with the pharmacy data provided. In comparison to the national report, the consumption of illicit drugs in most of the correctional facilities is lower than that among general populations. Some illicit drug use has been found sporadically in some of the correctional facilities.

Research Impact

This project helps Queensland Corrective Services in formulating their drug control policy without the dependence on urinalysis, which is intrusive and can cause a high burden of labour and emotion distress among the staff and inmates involved.



Project members

Zhe Wang

PhD Candidate

A/Prof Phong Thai

Co-Theme Leader, Environmental Health Risk Assessment

Prof Kevin Thomas

QAEHS Director
and Theme Leader, Environmental Health Toxicology

Prof Jochen Mueller

Theme Leader, Emerging Environmental Health Risks

Dr Ben Tscharke

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Jake O’Brien

Senior Research Fellow

Dr Qiuda Zheng

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Dr Rory Verhagen

Postdoctoral Research Fellow