It turns out humans have been accidentally medicating fish and wildlife with antidepressants.
In the same way that our contraceptives find their way into rivers, so do the calming drugs we take to deal with modern life – and from there, they're taken in by fish and animals, who have been calming the fuck down as a result.
This might be a good thing. But it could also be a very, very bad thing.
Chemistry World reports that benzodiazepines ('benzos') like Valium and antidepressants like Setraline caused fish to become braver and more active, and even to live longer, in lab experiments – but in the wild, that same behaviour could get them killed.
In one lab study, for instance, fathead minnows (that's their actual name, we're not just being rude) stopped hiding during the day and came out to feed. In the wild, there's a reason they hide in the daytime: it's because they might get eaten otherwise. Similarly, starlings given Prozac stopped eating proper meals and just snacked all the time, while the female starlings lost their libidos and no longer wanted to mate with the males. Women everywhere can relate.
These changes in animal behaviour could be catastrophic to the carefully-balanced ecosystem. It's not something we've been too worried about up to now, assuming the drugs would break down quickly and not affect wildlife. However, recent studies prove that this is just not the case: not only are drugs from the sixties and seventies still found in the water now, but the constant flow of new compounds from people taking medication now means human drugs are ever-present in the environment.
So how do we solve this potential ecological crisis? We asked a local fish for his take, and he told us:
It's all good, man. Just chill out.
Strangely, we haven't seen him since. [Chemistry World]
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