Drugs Discharged along Interstate Highway Restroom Facilities in Kentucky: Wastewater Analysis

Katherine E. Gray, Chris Delcher, Eugene Shin, Tyler A. Whitt, Andrew M. Windhorst, Gopal Nath, Bikram Subedi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Polysubstance use and the associated adverse consequences such as the ongoing and exponential increases in drug overdose deaths are major public health threats in the United States. There has been a substantial prevalence of driving under the influence of drugs (4.9% drivers in the United States) and drug-involved collisions (10.2% in Kentucky). In this study, 26 drugs including stimulants, opioids, and antipsychotics were measured in raw wastewater collected from two rest areas and a commercial truck service facility along two interstate highways in Kentucky. Methamphetamine, amphetamine, and cocaine were detected in all wastewater samples (n = 56) at both rest areas (I-24 E and I-24 W) and a commercial truck serving facility (I-75 N/S). Methamphetamine was discharged significantly higher at the rest areas (108 and 239 mg/d/1000 people at I-24 E and I-24 W, respectively); however, prescription opioids including tramadol, hydrocodone, and morphine as well as temazepam (benzodiazepine) and citalopram (antidepressant) were significantly discharged higher at the commercial truck service facility. Xylazine, a veterinary sedative, was also quantified for the first time in greater than 33% of collected wastewater samples. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first quantitative study of drugs discharged at rest area facilities along interstate highways.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
StatePublished - Sep 13 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Authors acknowledge Jones/Ross Research Center, Chemistry Department, Murray State University for providing access to the UPLC-MS/MS. Mr. David Cornett (Kentucky Transportation Cabinet), Ms. Sharon Lovejoy, Mr. Benton Hoagland, Mr. James Owen, Mr. Derek Petrey, Mr. Larry Bailey, and Mr. Tony Hicks are greatly acknowledged for assistance in sampling access at the rest areas. This project was supported by Award #2020-R2-CX-0013, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Chemical Society.


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Interstate Highways
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Rest Areas
  • Stimulants
  • Transportation
  • Wastewater
  • Wastewater Epidemiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Drugs Discharged along Interstate Highway Restroom Facilities in Kentucky: Wastewater Analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this