Traces of illicit drugs have been detected in the air of neighbourhoods or areas where their use is prevalent, though at this stage it is not believed such residuals pose a threat to the health of non-users.
But further research revealed that atmospheric concentrations of certain drugs were higher wherever drug use was presumed to be more prevalent – leading Cecinato and co-workers to wonder if they had found a better way to estimate the extent of drug abuse in a given area. Currently, authorities must rely on indirect information, such as communitywide surveys or questionnaires and police records. These methods can be time-consuming and expensive, Cecinato explains. Measuring the amount of drugs in the air, his group suspected, might be accurate, fast, and cheap.