We know that substance abuse affects our bodies, minds, and the people around us. It can derail the course of our futures, or, if overcome, it can be the impetus for great change. But did you know that it’s not just people affected by drugs? It turns out that the environment also suffers when humans manufacture and consume them.

You might not have ever considered where all the byproducts of drugs end up, but just like other chemicals, they can pass into both wastewater and the water supply. Think about this – some people in a rural area, with a house out in the woods and no nearby neighbors, set up meth production in their backyard. Do you know all the chemicals that can go into making meth? Acetone (from nail polish or paint thinner), lithium (a caustic chemical used in batteries), toluene (found in brake fluid, it’s strong enough to dissolve rubber), hydrochloric acid (very corrosive, and can eat away human skin), red phosphorus (found in matchboxes, road flares, and other explosive items), sodium hydroxide (lye, which can burn the skin and even dissolve dead bodies), sulfuric acid (found in drain and toilet bowl cleaner), and anhydrous ammonia (found in fertilizer or cleaners, can release toxic gases) are some of the most commonly used ingredients. Any of these can seep into the soil and be carried away by rain, where they’ll end up contaminating the water supply or poisoning plant and wildlife. And that’s just from a single type of drug.

Cocaine production is particularly hard on the environment. Most of the world’s supply comes from South America, where manufacturers will slash and burn huge swathes of rainforest. For every hectare (a little under two and a half acres) of coca that is planted, three to four hectares of forest are cut down. These rainforests are home to a diverse population of flora and fauna, some of which are endangered. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, as of 2013, there were over 2,600 threatened or endangered animals in South America.

THE IMPACT OF DRUGS ON THE ENVIRONMENT

The chemicals used to produce cocaine – including pesticides and fertilizer – are also dangerous and can enter the soil and water through both runoff and illegal dumping. The soil itself can become unstable from repeated planting, leading to landslides, flooding, and erosion. Sometimes when law enforcement officials locate fields growing cocaine plants, they will eradicate them by spraying chemicals. Unfortunately, these chemicals don’t only kill the coca plants, and any surrounding plant life, including important crops like beans and corn.

Land also has to be cleared for roads, buildings, and other infrastructure necessary to cocaine production. This further damages plant life and can wipe out places where animals used to dwell.

If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.