by Derek Beres
which we in turn
A new British study has discovered that "our aquatic
life is bathing in a soup of antidepressants."
Entire ecosystems are being negatively affected by
our pharmaceutical use.
The drugs re-enter our bodies when we consume
seafood from these areas.
In 2009, the NYC Department of Environment Protections discovered
numerous pharmaceuticals floating around in the city's tap water.
A 2010 follow-up study
concluded that trace amounts of
Butalbital, DEET - yes, insect repellent - and a
variety of prescription and illicit drugs, along with personal care
products, posed no threat to us.
A similar conclusion was reached in Britain, where in 2014 various
substances, including cocaine, were discovered in that
country's reservoirs. Researchers noted the amounts were thousands
of times below what would make an actual impact on our biology.
But what about other ecosystems?
Earlier this year
scientists uncovered a
startling consequence of the drugs we put
into of our mouths (and up our nostrils):
Researchers in Italy have found that small amounts of
in water can make eels hyperactive and cause significant muscle
European eels, they note, are an endangered species. And it's not
Oysters floating around in Oregon were
found to contain
antibiotics and pain relievers.
Northeastern fish are displaying
male and female sex traits thanks to birth control pills.
flush, urinate, or defecate these substances, we're destroying ocean
And now, a new study ('Prescribing'
Psychotropic Medication to our Rivers and Estuaries) published in British Journal of Psychiatry
marine life is
suffering due to our overuse of antidepressants.
Alex Ford, a
University of Portsmouth professor in the Institute of Marine
Our aquatic life is
bathing in a soup of antidepressants.
anti-anxiety medications are found everywhere, in sewage, surface
water, ground water, drinking water, soil, and accumulating in
They are found in sea
water and rivers and their potential ability to disrupt the
normal biological systems of aquatic organisms is extensive.
This is no weekend binge.
Ford says that the
animals spend their entire lives in this toxic environment, which
affects their immune system, eating habits, color, behavior,
metabolism, even the way it moves.
In previous studies, Ford
noticed that Prozac causes shrimp to leave their natural habitat to
head toward light, making them more vulnerable to predators.
We've known about the consequences of our drug diet on marine life
since the sixties. Like
climate change, we've not only done little
about it, we've made things worse.
The opioid epidemic in
America is not the only indication of this; antidepressant usage in
the UK has doubled in the last decade, with 10 percent of the
population taking them on a regular basis.
Even if you don't care about marine life, this problem returns to
when we eat seafood,
we're putting those drugs right back into our bodies.
If these pharmaceuticals
are affecting fish physiology, they're certainly affecting us.
The researchers put forward many suggestions to address this
problem, including upgrading waste water treatment plants,
requesting that the pharmaceutical industry green its
"cradle-to-grave" approach, reducing prescriptions in favor of
counseling, and coaching patients to limit the duration in which
they consume antidepressants instead of building a reliance upon
Such compliance will be difficult, given
Big Pharma's profit motive and the
fact that writing scripts is much more economically beneficial to
doctors than counseling.
Hopefully we won't wait
until there are no more fish left to eat to understand the gravity
of this problem. In the meantime, it's just another reminder that
our addictions don't only affect us. We're all in this together.
The sooner we realize
this, the better.