Thursday, December 04, 2008

Antidepressants for People and Fish?

Medicine cabinets around the country are stocked with antidepressants, but it is becoming just as common for antidepressants to show up in rivers around water treatment plants. While antidepressants can save peoples lives they also have the power to hinder a fish from eating, avoiding predators, and possibly from mating.

Meghan McGee conducted
studies to see the affects antidepressants had on fathead minnows. McGee found that when hatchlings or embryos were exposed to traces of venlafaxine, one of the drugs present in the water, they did not react as quickly to potential predators. When the minnow hatchlings were exposed to a mix of drugs instead of just venlafaxine the speed at which they fled was lowered. Control, or untreated fish responded to the potential predators twice as fast as the treated ones.

If hatchlings are affected by the antidepressants then it would be make sense for their predators to be as well. They are indeed affected, but unfortunately for the minnows the amount of antidepressants that affect the fish are much higher than the amount that affects the minnows. A study was done on one of the minnows predators, the striped bass, and they found that the concentration that would affect them was 100 to 1000 times higher than that which affected the minnows. At those levels the bass began losing their appetites and exhibit odd behavior. They would rest at the top of the water with their fin exposed while minnows swam beneath them. Not only did it affect their eating habits it also changed the males appearance. Female bass are attracted to males that have facial bumps and certain coloration. The antidepressants actually reduced these traits in the male.

Hopefully there will be many more experiments to see the affects of antidepressants and other drugs on the organisms living in the runoff of the water treatment plants in order to lessen the adverse affects.

Posted by: Tara Quist (11)


At 4:17 PM, Blogger PWH said...

It is so interesting to observe how something that is used for humans may affect animals. This reminds me of when my dog accidentally ate a pill that he found on the floor. He became delirious and tried to walk down the stairs but fell. It was so sad. Is there anyway they can eliminate this antidepressant in the water? How did it get in the water?

Chantal Gomes

At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is so sad to hear, that we are affecting so many things such as this in negative ways. I am sure that these fish will evolve somehow to overcome the antidepressants. Can they make it illegal to flush pills into the water, and how do we get it out to save the fish and the other animals who will also suffer?

Alyson Paige

At 3:54 PM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

How do the antidepressants get into the water? Is it from human waste? I wasn't terribly surprised to learn that it is affecting their behavior, but I am puzzled as to how it affects the males facial bumps and coloration. What are those traits controlled by? Hormones?

~Allison Cornell (11)

At 9:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another case of environmental pollution caused by humans. How did the antidepressants get in the water where fish live? Shouldn't all waste water be treated before going into rivers,etc.? How does the antidepressants affect the fish's coloration?

Hanbing Guo

At 2:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is really unfortunate. It's scary to hear about all the ways in which humans are hurting the environment. I was wondering, since this experiment was performed in a lab, how much of these damaging chemicals are actually in the wild? I know rivers and streams are polluted with waste, but I had no idea that the chemicals from human medication end up in there.

-Jane de Verges

At 6:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do the antidepressants get into the water? Through the urine of people who are taking them? Or maybe from production plant runoff? However it's getting in there, it's really sad. Why do the drugs have a greater effect sooner on the minnows? Is it because of body mass, or maybe diet?

Corinne Delisle

At 8:02 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is a problem that I have been hearing a significant amount about in many of my environmental classes. If I'm correct it's not so much that people are flushing pills which are then dissolving in the water but are instead passing on trace amounts of medecine through their urine. When enough people are taking the same medications which are difficult to completely clean out of the waste water a build up in the water occurs. I'm not sure though if the fish can actually store these medications in their muscle or fat tissues and if a human ate a significant amount of contaminated fish if they would also be affected? I assume that this problem will only continue to get worse and one has to wonder how long these medications can stay present in the water system?
Posted by: Lindsay Goodyear

At 12:46 AM, Blogger PWH said...

thats interesting, it seems like the anti depressants have an adverse affect on the fish, or maybe just calms them down. have the effects been studied in any other kind of fish?

Hessom Minaei

At 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw a show a few weeks ago that was investigating lower sperm levels in men in a southern state. The people doing the show thought the river that runs through the area was the source. The problem with the river water was human pollutants (meds and other man-made chemicals) were beginning to affect people. Amphibians in the river system have already been documented with various deformities (missing legs, frogs with 3 legs etc)

Allan Eldridge

At 6:30 PM, Blogger PWH said...


The antidepressants are getting into the water from human waste as well as from pills being flushed down the toilet. The water that the antidepressants are found in is downstream from a water treatment plant so while the water is treated, the water treatment plants were never designed to filter pharmaceuticals out. The reason for the change in coloration and the smaller facial bumps in the male fish is because of the antidepressants, fluoxetine, also functions like estrogen does.

There is still a lot of research that needs to be done so if I didn't answer your question I am sorry, but here is a link that explains things a little better in regards to a different story :

~Tara Quist


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