When it comes the damage caused by substance abuse and the illegal drug trade, many think of lives ruined by addiction or those sent to prison for drug-related crimes. It’s also not uncommon to think of traffic violations and arrests caused by driving while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs.

When drugs are imported into the United States, the people responsible aren’t just damaging human lives; they may also be wreaking havoc on the environment. The illegal drug industry is harmful to nature in ways the average person may have never realized; let’s take a look at how this happens.

Drug Trade Is Accelerating Deforestation


CC BY-SA 2.0 Flickr

The disappearing rainforest in South America is blamed on a number of factors – especially cattle ranching. But in recent years, the disappearance of trees on what is supposed to be protected land is increasingly blamed on the drug trade.

It doesn’t help that conservation efforts in highly affected regions such as Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala are hampered by criminals that are dangerous and often violent.

Concerned environmentalists feel that the best possible response would be for the authorities to consider reforestation to be an important part of combating drug cartels.

Prescription Drug Waste and Your Drinking Water

Don't flush your unused medicine down the toilet. Credit: WikiHow

Don’t flush your unused medicine down the toilet. Credit: WikiHow

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How do you dispose of your prescription drugs when you no longer need them?

Environmental authorities take prescription drug disposal very seriously because there is concern that actions such as flushing unused drugs down the toilet could contribute to unsafe drinking water.

If you research programs in your area, you may find that there is a “take back” program available for turning in your unused medicine.

If you are simply going to throw your drugs away, be sure remove them from the original containers and carefully mix them with “undesirable substances” such as kitty litter and coffee grounds. They should be placed in a sealed bag or other leak-proof container to avoid unnecessary environmental contamination, as well as to prevent them from falling into the hands of small children.

Methamphetamine Production Causes Hazardous Waste

Credit: ITSGOV

Credit: ITSGOV

According to research, each pound of meth produced creates five to six pounds of hazardous waste. These toxic materials are often disposed of by way of river and streams, putting the health of both humans and animals at risk.

Even worse, the toxic elements can linger for years. Thankfully, because of the serious impact of methamphetamine production on the environment, there are prevention efforts in place.

The failure to be proactive or to catch the meth production in time can lead to clean up and detoxification efforts, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Final Thoughts

Drugs are abused by humans, but other living things can be just as negatively impacted. Plant and animal life shouldn’t have to suffer the ill effects of the drug trade and drug addiction.

The good news is that a growing number of law enforcement agencies understand the importance of protecting the environment from drug-related hazards and properly cleaning up the impacted locations.

These efforts and increased vigilance can work hand in hand to help reverse the harm done to the environment by the illegal drug trade and the irresponsible disposal of drugs.