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Drugs discarded in wastewater can cause addiction in fish – scientists

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

Trout fish, which spent two months in aquariums with a concentration of 1 μg methamphetamine per liter of water, changed its behaviour.

Environmentalists have found that the concentration of methamphetamine and similar drugs in the wastewater of cities is enough to cause full-fledged dependence in some species of trout. The results of their research were published by the  Journal of Experimental Biology.

In the wastewater of some large American cities, the concentration of amphetamine and other drugs reaches quite high levels. In a new study, Professor at the University of South Bohemia Tomáš Randák and his colleagues decided to find out whether drugs that enter lakes and rivers along with wastewater can cause full addiction in their inhabitants.

To answer this question, scientists measured the typical concentration of methamphetamine and its derivatives in rivers and lakes near major European cities. The researchers then filled laboratory aquariums with water of a comparable drug concentration. Then scientists released several dozen individuals of trout there – a commercial fish from the salmon family, which is often used in laboratory experiments.

The fish lived in these tanks for approximately eight weeks. After that, ecologists traced how the trout behaved when the concentration of the drug in the water changed, and also analyzed how the behavior of fish differed in different life situations. In addition, ecologists have studied the chemical composition and structure of the brain of fish that lived in both polluted aquariums and clean water.

It turned out that even the small concentrations of methamphetamine that the trout dealt with were enough to make them addicted. Scientists traced this by the fact that the trout preferred to swim across the part of the tank with the highest concentration of drugs. In addition, after the scientists cleared the aquarium of methamphetamine, the fish moved little and suffered other effects of withdrawal. 

Individuals from the control group who lived in aquariums with clean water behaved completely differently.

All changes in the behavior of fish after acquiring addiction and withdrawal were accompanied by characteristic increases and decreases in the concentration of narcotic substances in their brains, as well as changes in the level of activity of the nervous system and the nature of metabolism in its tissues.

Findings like these, the researchers say, suggest that drug leaks can already have profound effects on freshwater ecosystems and fish behavior. 

This can negatively affect their survival, which must be taken into account when assessing the stability of river and lake flora and fauna, the scientists concluded.

Image Credit: Getty

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