Mood Stabilizers In Waterways Affecting Fish - NBIF - FINB

Mood Stabilizers In Waterways Affecting Fish

NBIF-funded researcher Karen Kidd of the University of New Brunswick, in an article recently published in Science Journal explains how anti-depressant drugs like Xanax are finding their way from human wastewater, into rivers and oceans—and fish. Michael Hayne of reports:

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If you ever wanted to eat a tuna but needed to make sure the fish that was just slapped down on your plate did not suffer from panic attacks, now is your chance.

New research in the Science Journal indicates that the drugs we pop like tic-tacs are making their way into a waterway.

"It is something we don't think about very often, but there are a lot of similarities between fish and humans, so some of our responses to drugs we might expect to see in fish, as well," said Karen Kidd, a biologist at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, who was not involved in the new research.

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The mood candy that makes the world seem just a little more tolerable, evidently enters waterways when people using the prescriptions throw unused pills into the waste stream, or excrete the drug in their urine. And since waste water treatment plants are not designed to filter out pharmaceuticals, the fish are getting a free buzz. For example, the research found that Perch swimming in lab tanks with concentrations similar to those found downstream from waste water treatment plants apparently lost their characteristic inhibitions, according to Micael Jonsson of Umeå University in Sweden, who helped lead the research.

The affected perch preferred to swim alone rather than in schools, and were more likely to explore their environment. Now while most of us find the idea of fish floating around like they just got back from a Dead concert simply hilarious, their erratic behavior affects their activities which in turn have substantial affects on the food web.

"Fish are very important" to the aquatic ecosystem, he said. "If they change behavior, it might have cascading effects both up and down in the food web."

The drug Oxazepam appears to be among one of many mood drugs reaching waterways. Despite the fact that Oxazepam immediately passes through the human body, fish swimming in water even with tiny concentrations of the drug are constantly exposed to it, according to Johnson.

Even with all of this new found research, it is still not known what impact these drugs are having on the fish in the long run as more thorough studies await.