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Wastewater testing by MIT start-up to help Cary determine opioid use among its people

Combating the opioid epidemic, which is ripping apart the fabric of the nation, has become the motto of not just the American government but also of many other organizations. One such example is that of Biobot Analytics, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) start-up, which aims to help the U.S. states fight the opioid crisis by screening wastewater. The screening will help the states understand the pattern of drug use among its residents. The proactive projects aim to encourage a conversation on opioid crisis and provide the latest details related to the problem to public health officials. Cary, a North Carolina town, is one of the first towns to sign up for Biobot’s technology. 

Biobot, specializing in wastewater, has developed tools to transform the sewers of cities into observatories. One of its first products aims to measure opioids and other drug metabolites in the sewage to estimate drug consumption in cities. According to Mike Bajorek, Deputy Town Manager, Cary, “What we’re trying to do is not catch people once they’re addicted. What we’re trying to do is cut that addiction cycle before people are addicted. And so many more families will be saved and strengthened if we’re successful in just starting the conversation.”

Though Cary is not the epicenter of the opioid epidemic, the findings will definitely help find a solution to the problem. With a total number of residents being around 162,000, there was a massive 70 percent increase in overdose cases. In 2017, around 46 families were affected by drug overdoses. There were six overdose deaths and 40 overdoses were reversed using opioid overdose antidote Narcan. Unlike other remedial measures, the aforementioned project aims to decrease opioid addiction rate by conducting a dialogue among people using real-time data.

Benefits of wastewater testing

Traditionally, epidemiologists take help of drug surveys that are both expensive and time taking. Precious time was lost before they could arrive at a conclusion. Using wastewater for analyzing the prevalence of illicit drugs in a community is helpful because of the following reasons:

Quicker: It is an ingenious way to fight the scourge of opioid abuse, which has claimed many lives in recent years and led to homelessness and poverty. Though the most common means for tracking drug abuse in America are surveys, drug seizures, etc., the assessment of wastewater in sewages spread across a city is quicker. This is because most surveys are prolonged and carried on for years; by the time the survey results are out, the harm has been done.

Accurate: In surveys, most of the responders are apprehensive of providing details about their drug abuse, fearing that authorities will catch up with them. In certain instances, biasness creeps up in the survey as the answers of respondents are not 100 percent accurate.  However, wastewater testing can accurately determine the psychoactive substances expunged by the users into the drainage system.

Real-time analysis: One could easily and with a good deal of accuracy warn about the onset of a pandemic in a community and contain further harm by studying the wastewater metabolites.

Overcoming far-reaching impact of drugs

The opioid crisis has a far-reaching impact on the health and life of users. A person indulging in drug abuse not only harms himself or herself, but also disrupts the social fabric of the society. Moreover, it inflicts significant socioeconomic costs.

Though drug addiction is serious mental illness, it can be tackled through grit and determination. A supportive family and comprehensive residential rehabs can go a long way in ensuring recovery from drug abuse. It is also essential to seek help at the right time to keep the problem at bay.

If you or your loved one is facing drug-related problems and is looking for residential drug rehab centers, look no further. Being a repository of addiction treatment resources, the 24/7 Recovery Helpline can assist you by providing the relevant information. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 or chat online to locate the finest residential drug treatment centers near you.

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