According to a new study from the Journal of Experimental Biology, fish in the Czech and Slovak Republics have been getting addicted to methamphetamines, thanks to heavy doses of the drug been discharged into wastewater that gets flushed back out to their habitats.
In some parts of Europe, methamphetamine use is elevated; for example, sewage- (or wastewater-) based epidemiology studies of illicit drugs in raw sewage identified relatively high consumption in regions of the Czech and Slovak Republics. Consequently, methamphetamine was previously observed in surface waters of the Czech Republic at levels of hundreds of nanograms per liter.
Because fish can develop drug addiction such as behavioral dependencies related to the dopamine reward pathway in a similar manner to humans, we tested whether fish exposed to environmentally relevant methamphetamine concentrations show signs of addiction during withdrawal. We then examined potential mechanisms of addiction by identifying the extent of methamphetamine and its metabolite amphetamine presence in brain tissues of brown trout, Salmo trutta. Brown trout is a globally important species that is native primarily in Europe with a range extending to western Asia and North Africa but with naturalized populations on all continents except for Antarctica. Furthermore, brown trout has been employed as a model species in toxicology. Thus, the results obtained in the present study are broadly relevant to numerous ecosystems.
The real problem here is that the addicted fish are then drawn to wastewater plants in order to get their meth fix, which could potentially mess up the whole aquatic ecosystem.
Such unnatural attraction to one area together with documented changes in behavior could result in unexpected ecological consequences influencing whole ecosystems. Furthermore, drug reward cravings by fish could overshadow natural rewards such as foraging or mating that provision homeostatic and reproductive success and further reinforce adverse ecological consequences of pollutants in aquatic environments
Or, as Mashable helpfully noted in their headline on the issue, "It's not good."
Who had "meth fish destroying the ecosystem" on their apocalyptic bingo card?
Methamphetamine pollution elicits addiction in wild fish [Pavel Horký, Roman Grabic, Kateřina Grabicová, Bryan W. Brooks, Karel Douda, Ondřej Slavík, Pavla Hubená, Eugenia M. Sancho Santos, Tomáš Randák / Journal of Experimental Biology]
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