Abuse of prescription drugs is a big problem today, ranging from self-medicating physicians to dealers on the street. A similar problem has been found in water pollution downstream from waste treatment plants.
Self-medication is problem because a number of considerations need to be taken in order to make a proper drug prescription, including allergies, body chemistry, and disorder being treated.
The problem is that no one asked the fish if they needed anti-depressants or not. Fish and anti-depressant medications were included in a study recently that indicates that we’ve been medicating fish, and other aquatic species and those that depend on them, with disastrous consequences.
Water pollution downstream from municipal waste treatment plants, including low levels of anti-depressant drugs, has not been properly prescribed for the fish in question. In the lab, fish exposed to Prozac at a concentration of just one part per billion spent more time hunting and hiding than they did breeding.
When the dosage was increased to levels found in some wastewater streams, University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee researchers found that the female fish laid fewer eggs and the males became aggressive, even killing the females at times.
There isn’t enough information to indicate whether this anti-depressant-laden water pollution is having an effect on fish populations in the wild, but the lab experiments show there is some effect. Testing downstream from water treatment plants has shown that they aren’t very effective removing these drugs from the waste stream.
Prozac comes out of typical water treatment plants at 20-30 parts per trillion, and Tegretol up to 400 parts per trillion. This is about 50x lower than the lab experiments, but US Geological Survey chemist Edward Furlong notes that even fish in these lower-concentration waters are showing concentrations of anti-depressants in their systems.