Illicit psychotropic substances in the atmosphere

An extensive investigation focused on the occurrence of legal and illicit psychotropic substances in the atmosphere was started in 2006, after cocaine was identified in Rome.
Several investigations have been carried out in Italy and abroad in urban, suburban and rural areas, and an important data base has been set up. According to it, the illicit substances seem to be widespread in the environment and show time and space modulations independent of those of usual air pollutants. On the basis of the matured expertise, two dedicated researches have been implemented, namely the PSALM and AriaDrug projects.
The former one, performed on voluntary basis in co-operation with 15 Regional and Provincial Agencies for Environmental Preservation, was aimed to monitor cocaine, cannabinoids, nicotine and caffeine in the aerosols of over 30 localities across Italy. Short in-field campaigns have been conducted in 2009 (winter and summer), 2010 (summer) and are foreseen in 2011 (winter). Auxiliary measurements have concerned polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons and the particle size partition of drugs. The purpose of the project was to know the level of psychotropic presence in the environment.
The AriaDrugs project, funded by Department for Anti-Drug Policies of the Presidency of Ministers' Council, is focused on the measurement of illicit compounds in urban air. Measurements are made weekly on aerosol samples collected day-by-day, over one year, in six Italian big cities, namely Milan, Verona, Florence, Rome, Naples and Palermo. In Turin and Bologna the measurements are made on 7 samples per month (one per each week day). In addition, nicotine, caffeine and PAH are evaluated. The aim of the project is to evaluate the feasibility of assessing the abuse prevalence through monitoring drugs in the environment. AriaDrugs started in 2010 and will finish in 2011; however, it is expected to be renewed until December 2012, with three objectives, i.e. to estimate the medium-term concentration trends, to evaluate the drug stability in the atmosphere, and to identify possible indicators of abuse, derived from drug burdens in the environment.
Until nowadays, almost all researches focused on the occurrence of drugs in the atmosphere have been implemented by CNR-IIA, which has gained a peculiar expertise in the world.