About Operation Medicine Cabinet

Pharmaceutical drugs are a growing concern for both environmentalists and law enforcement. Operation Medicine Cabinet is just one way to prevent unwanted or unused drugs from ending up in the hands of our teens or being dumped untreated into our rivers and streams.



Pharmaceuticals are designed to have strong effects on people, but when they are released they also have strong effects on the environment.

Watauga RiverMost pharmaceuticals enter the environment through waste water treatment plants. Many people are told to flush unwanted drugs down the toilet. You should never flush pharmaceutical drugs down the toilet. Once drugs are flushed, they travel straight through the treatment plants and into rivers. Wastewater treatments plants are not designed to treat pharmaceuticals, so the drugs remain in the water and are ejected into public waterways. 

The effects of pharmaceuticals on fish and amphibians and other aquatic organisms are largely unknown, but there is a growing body of scientific evidence indicating that they are a major problem. A recent study found that many fish in the U.S. are becoming intersexed (male fish are producing eggs), with between 70-90% of fish in the southeast determined to be intersexed. In a study conducted by Appalachian State University on the New River directly below the town of Boone sewage treatment plant, 60-66% of two species of fish studied were intersexed.

Study: Gender-Bending Fish Widespread in U.S.

These drugs are not removed in the sewage treatment process, and they are often not removed in the drinking water treatment process. So, these drugs are not only effecting animals that live in the river but the people that get their drinking water from a river (most public tap water comes from rivers, and most are downstream of some other sewage treatment plant).

Probe: Pharmaceuticals In Drinking Water



Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug abuse problem in the country.

From 2000 to 2005, the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs rose more than 60%, from 3.8 million to 6.4 million. More people abuse prescription drugs than use cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined.

The problem is especially problematic in teens. Among the youth, prescription drug use is second only to marijuana use, and in the past year almost 10% of high school seniors used Vicodin, and 5% used OxyCotin.

Many of these drugs are obtained from the medicine cabinets of parents and then abused by teens and their friends. That is why it is a great idea to clear out unneeded medications at events like Operation Medicine Cabinet.