Monday, June 30, 2008

Sewage Forensics

Individual urine tests are old school; now the government is testing your crap for illegal drugs:

Environmental scientists are beginning to use an unsavory new tool -- raw sewage -- to paint an accurate portrait of drug abuse in communities. Like one big, citywide urinalysis, tests at municipal sewage plants in many areas of the United States and Europe, including Los Angeles County, have detected illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana.

Law enforcement officials have long sought a way to come up with reliable and verifiable calculations of narcotics use, to identify new trends and formulate policies. Surveys, the backbone of drug-use estimates, are only as reliable as the people who answer them. But sewage does not lie.

Since people excrete chemicals in urine and flush it down toilets, measuring raw sewage for street drugs can provide quick, fairly precise snapshots of drug use in communities, even on a particular day.
Just one more intrusion into our lives to support the war on drugs; for those new readers, I've made my views on this issue known here before. Ostensibly the reasoning behind this program is to give the authorities a better idea of what they're dealing with and to help them shape their anti-drug advertising. I don't know about you but lately I've felt that the drug war has seemed a bit too impersonal; it'll be nice to have some tailor-made propaganda that's been created with my immediate community in mind. Your tax dollars hard at work.


Anonymous said...

I think this is a fascinating "survey". I can't wait to see which major metroplitan areas are the most drugged-up. This'll be awesome.

Would you feel differently if a private company funded and implemented this? Or would you still be concerned about your privacy, public perception, future tax dollar allocation, etc?

JBW said...

As the reason for the study is to better shape the government's drug war strategies, I would assume that having a private company do the research would still require funding from tax dollars. Otherwise, I don't see a valid business reason for doing it at all; corporate America isn't stupid enough to go ahead with something as wasteful and ignorant as our current drug enforcement policies.

Anonymous said...

Let me rephrase my question a bit more bluntly: all politics aside, are you as interested in the results as I am? I mean, what if we find out that St. Paul, Minnesota is *really* the drug capitol of the US.

JBW said...

Politics aside, totally. It's an interesting project and I'm curious as to whether all of our assumptions about the different areas of the country are true.