This is your fish on drugs: lowered inhibition, antisocial behavior, and munchies

A forthcoming report in the journal Science finds that wild European perch exposed to the popular anxiety medication Oxazepam tend to be antisocial, wander away from the safety of their group, and devour food more quickly than peers, "all behaviors that could have profound ecological consequences."
Further research is needed to determine whether oxazepam and similar drugs are actually causing fish to change their behavior in the wild. If so, profound ecological effects could result, the authors say. For example, fish relieved of their normal stressors—say, of being eaten—could wipe out the population of algae-eating water fleas, which could lead to an algal bloom. On the flip side, anxiety-free fish are likely to be much more vulnerable to predators, Brodin says, suggesting that the overall effect will likely depend on whether perch are the top predator in their environment.
All of this indicates a growing need for updated water filtration and treatment systems with the ability to capture and contain pharmaceuticals released by humans into the water system. Drugs "don't mysteriously go away after we excrete them," says Jerker Fick, a toxicologist at Umeå University in Sweden and co-author of the new study.

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  1. “All of this indicates a growing need for updated water filtration and treatment systems with the ability to capture and contain pharmaceuticals released by humans into the water system.”

    No it doesn’t indicate that. At least not yet. While this is an interesting study, further research is needed, as the researchers are quick to point out.

    Having worked in medical research, we’re almost always quick to say that more research is needed, and most media are quick to ignore that statement and jump to assumptions.

    The researchers used, on purpose, a high dose of the medication to make sure that they got a reaction. They admit that the dose does not reflect what is found in most natural environments, and that wasn’t their point to begin with. They got a reaction, and now the want to do more research to see if they can get the same results at the lower dosages found in more natural environments.

    As of yet, there is not enough research to support your statement. Indeed, that statement is at the heart of the question they’re asking.

    1. Thank you.

      I would add that exposure to the drug is only part of the story.  Unless everyone is flushing their meds, and depending on the medication in question, fish would be exposed to the metabolites of the drug rather than the drug in its original state.

      Some medications pass through the human body effectively unchanged, while others are partially or fully broken down by the liver and other organs.  

  2. The recent Mother Jones article about the apparent influence of leaded gasoline on the crime rate has reinforced my belief that humans don’t really understand the effect they have on the world or even themselves.   Do we really know how bisphenol-A is changing us?  How about the effect 100 years of streetlights might have had on nocturnal animals?  

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