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Wastewater analysis identifies illicit drug use in Maldives

Cannabis and heroin were the most used drugs.



A study conducted to investigate the lifestyle of residents in the Maldives capital was published in a scientific journal on Friday.

The study analysed raw wastewater collected from nine pumping stations of Malé to estimate the use of illicit drugs, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco and pharmaceuticals.

“The illicit drugs most used were cannabis (THC) and heroin (700 and 18 g/day), with lower consumption of cocaine and amphetamines (0.1–1.2 g/day,” the study found.

“It is important to note that the consumption of cannabis in Malé was comparable to that measured in other countries, while the consumption of heroin was higher. Among cathinones, mephedrone was detected at the highest levels similar to other countries.

“Consumption of alcohol, which is not allowed in Maldives, was found (1.3 L/day/1000 inhabitants), but at a low level compared with other countries (6–44 L/day/1000 inhabitants), while the consumption of caffeine and tobacco was generally in line with reports from other countries.”

It was the first time that the lifestyle of Maldivians was evaluated using wastewater-based epidemiology. The study noted that the findings would be “useful for national and international agencies to understand population lifestyles better, including illicit drug issues, and for planning and evaluation of drug prevention programs in Malé.”

Heroin and hashish oil (a liquid extract of cannabis) are the most commonly used drugs in the Maldives, but LSD, ecstasy and other synthetic drugs have been found in recent years.

In July, Indian newspaper The Hindu reported that the bulk of the hashish smuggled to Kerala from marijuana-growing regions in Andhra Pradesh is trafficked to the Maldives.

In late April, Maldives police found 149kg of heroin and cannabis buried on an uninhabited island in the southern Gaaf Dhaalu atoll. With an estimated street value of MVR260 million (US$16 million), it was the largest haul from a single operation.

In 2018, customs seized 17kg of cannabis, 10kg of heroin, 3383 grams of psychotropic drugs (amphetamines, ecstasy and methamphetamines), 664 grams of ‘new psychoactive substances,’ and 563 grams of cocaine.