Enlarge / The Trout Run Sewage Treatment Plant in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (credit: Montgomery County Planning Commission / Flickr)
Sylvia Lee, PhD, is a scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Milbrook, New York.
She has access to an unusual—yet essential—set of laboratory equipment: a whole greenhouse filled with white fiberglass bathtubs.

There’s no mistaking these vessels with those you’d find in the average bathroom, however. While these bathtubs are about the same length, they’re shallower, narrower, and have a raised racetrack-like interior that water circulates around.

And none of the lab members spend time inside them.
Instead, researchers fill them with rocks and organisms obtained from local streams in upstate New York.

And in place of bubble bath, they add to the water D-amphetamine, the same active substance found in several ADHD and narcolepsy medications.

The water in the tubs is mixed with enough amphetamines to make the organisms think they’re sitting downstream from one of Baltimore’s water treatment plants.

The goal of this lab is to find out what the US’ heavily medicated population might be doing to its surroundings.
The United States of America is a highly medicated country: almost seven in 10 Americans take prescription drugs.

That translates to 4.4 billion prescriptions and nearly $310 billion spent on medication in 2015. Painkillers, cholesterol-lowering medications, and antidepressants top the list of drugs most commonly prescribed by doctors.
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