The drugs lurking in our wastewater


Testing of Queenstown’s poos and wees has confirmed the popularity of party drug ecstasy in the resort.

Results from the first three months of nationwide wastewater testing, from November to January, show the Class B-controlled (high risk) drug, also known as MDMA, makes up 70 per cent of the illegal drugs tested for in the resort’s wastewater.

It’s the highest proportion of ecstasy across the country’s 38 sample sites.

Carried out by boffins from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, the testing also identifies Class A-controlled drugs (very high risk) methamphetamine (25 per cent) and cocaine (five per cent).

Tests also capture heroin and Class B-controlled fentanyl, but neither were detected in our wastewater.

Prescription painkiller fentanyl’s a synthetic opioid 50 times stronger than heroin – it’s notorious for killing musician Prince in 2016.

Notably, though, the testing doesn’t include cannabis, understood to be the most widely-used drug in the resort.

Police announced in October its wastewater testing programme would be rolled out across the country to capture 80 per cent of the population.

The pilot ran in Auckland, Christchurch and Whangarei.

Police boss Mike Bush says long-term testing will help combat organised crime groups dealing drugs, serve as an “early warning system for emerging risks” and help other agencies make decisions about drug treatment services.