Drug addiction and environmental damage are two of the most significant challenges that civilized society must contend with. Even as our drug policy continues to change with the times, millions of Americans still struggle to find relief from their addictions. Meanwhile, addictions of a very different nature continue to threaten the natural world around us as we drill, spill, and pillage the earth’s natural resources.
No surprises there, then. What is surprising is the unlikely way that our addiction and environmental problems play off each other and create further problems for Americans and our way of life. Simply put, our collective drug addiction problem is bringing harm to the natural world in ways that we’re only beginning to understand.
With some help from the Global Commission on Drugs, the UN Office on Drugs & Crime, and the New York Times, we did some research on the worldwide drug trade and managed to track the course plotted by environmental damage. It’s no secret that a great many drugs in circulation in the US came to us from foreign shores, but what most people don’t realize is that this worldwide network of supply and demand is bringing more than drugs to America.
Cocaine: Colombia, Peru, Uzbekistan, and Honduras
Cocaine is a particularly problematic substance. It comes to us from countries like Colombia, Peru, Uzbekistan, and Honduras, each of which have experienced significant environmental troubles due to their respective drug trades. For example: 21.5% of Colombia’s coca fields were created by destroying primary forests. Honduras, too, has seen a dramatic rise in deforestation. In Peru and Uzbekistan, the cocaine trade takes a toll of a different kind: mycotoxins. These biological agents have been used since the 1980’s to curb the spread of illegal drugs, and can harm both humans and animals alike.
Ecstasy: Brazil, Cambodia
The ecstasy trade in Brazil and Cambodia has also resulted in devastated forests; sassafras oil – a major ingredient in ecstasy – is derived from endangered trees in Brazil. Meanwhile, in Cambodia, the felling of some 8,000 trees inspired the US government to confiscate 33 tons of sassafras oil in an effort to curb the destruction of these natural resources.
Prescription Drugs: United States
A little closer to home, the prescription drug trade has created problems of its own. The South Carolina alone fills more than 128,000,000 prescriptions each year, and roughly 40% of that medication is never disposed of properly. After it’s flushed down the toilet, left in landfills, or is otherwise allowed to enter the water table, it wreaks havoc on the bacterial world. We can attribute some 65,000 deaths each year to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are created when antibiotics are allowed to enter our water supplies.
For the full picture, check out the infographic below, and don’t forget to share it with your friends, followers, and loved ones. It’s only by sharing information like this that we can hope to arrive at a solution. And no matter what form that solution ultimately takes, remember that help is just a click or a phone call away if you’re experiencing drug problems of your own.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Posted on December 16th, 2014 in Infographics