Anti-Anxiety Drug in Water System Changes Fish Behavior

By Gemma Tarlach | February 14, 2013 1:39 pm

Shoaling perch. Image courtesy of Bent Christensen.

“Must be something in the water” isn’t just a line from the opening minutes of a horror movie.

New evidence confirms fears that animals’ behavior can be altered by medication inadvertently introduced into their habitats via our sewage systems.

In a study published today Swedish researchers report that fish given Oxazepam, an anxiety-moderating drug for humans, became less social and more aggressive. Researchers administered the drug to wild perch in the lab in amounts equivalent to levels found in local rivers and streams.

The dosed fish showed a number of behavioral changes, notably in their willingness to leave familiar and “safe” surroundings in favor of exposed, potentially dangerous areas. The fish treated with the drug also distanced themselves from other perch. These antisocial fish ate faster than normal, which, in the wild, could disrupt the established food chain.

Accumulated concentrations of the drug in the muscle tissue of the fish were comparable to the levels found in fish living in the wild, suggesting these drug-induced behavioral changes may already be impacting ecosystems.

Researchers involved in the study, released in the February 15 issue of the journal Science, stressed the need to develop treatment plants that could filter out Oxazepam and other drugs found in sewage, which are currently released back into water systems.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World, Top Posts
MORE ABOUT: pharmaceuticals, sewage
  • Barb

    So, what happens when we eat these fish?

    • moon

      yeah, “we” must be the principal concern as always!

    • I_of_Horus

      Takes the edge off :)
      Btw, did you just read the title and then commented right away? From the post: “Oxazepam, an anxiety-moderating drug for humans”

  • http://www.facebook.com/karen.brichschulte Karen Karri Brich-Schulte

    Also read an article about all sorts of meds in the water supply. With the seemingly unknown cause in the upswing of ADHD and autism in kids, to infertility and miscarriages in women( birth control drugs have been found in unusual quantities in some water supplies in big cities…. Scary ) we don’t know what’s good to drink anymore. Even some bottled water is just taken from a municipal water supply.

  • claudi

    I wonder if they developed tolerance…

    • http://twitter.com/Feintglow Glenn Jones

      I recall reading that the antiseptic triclosan is being found in silt at the bottom of waterways. It seems that pharmaceutical companies may not be doing enough research into the knock on effects of their products, instead they seem to assume that we humans convert everything we put into and onto our bodies into inert by-products.

  • http://twitter.com/grapedoc Steve Savage

    This isn’t actually a novel finding. The residues of our pharmaceuticals are a real issue even after our water treatment systems. People like to focus on pesticides in water, but there are a lot of less regulated chemicals that need to be considered.

  • http://www.facebook.com/al.hennington Al Hennington

    All nurses who treat hospice patients that pass away are instructed to gather up all the unused medications, which in my wifes case, were several hundred oxycontin, xanax,clonapin & other tablet medications along with several unused bottles of liquid morphine and flush it all down the toilet to keep it out of the hands of drug addicts

  • http://www.facebook.com/fhigueraramirez1 Francisco J. Higuera Ramirez

    No tenían porque comportarse diferentes, pues el mediucamento actua en el sistema nervioso central y altera sistemas enzimáticos comunes. Lo que se debería ya implementar copmo politica pública universal es no deshechar los medicam,entos en los corrientes sanitarios, Darle a conocer a la población que n o debe hacerlo.

  • chang kek ning I12001777

    then those fishes have possible turn to the character that will bite people??

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