How Antidepressants Are Harming Marine Animals

You may have heard you're not supposed to flush your old medications down the toilet, and you may have heard that doing so is bad for the environment, but very few people seem to know exactly why it's so bad.

So here's one reason why you shouldn't flush your pills down the toilet, especially antidepressants- because they can end up in the ocean, thereby affecting the wildlife.

Researchers at Portland State University are studying how flushed antidepressants that end up in the ocean affect wildlife like Oregon shore crabs, and their tests revealed that fluoxetine had a dramatic effect on these crabs:

The authors introduced fluoxetine, the main ingredient in Prozac, into a laboratory body of water inhabited by Oregon shore crabs, or Hemigrapsus oregonensis. Normally, the crabs are nocturnal foragers, avoiding confrontation and hiding in sediment when predators appear.

After being exposed to the drug, the crabs exhibited a dramatic change in behavior. Instead of shying away from predators—in the lab study, the larger red rock crab—they became more confrontational, increasing the risk of an early death. They also became more active during the day and displayed aggression towards other crabs, engaging in fights.

a USGS study published earlier this year found antidepressants in the brains of fish living downstream from wastewater treatment plants. The study's authors warn that increased populations near coastal regions may worsen the issue. It's also unknown how concentrations of several different drugs can combine to alter behavior. Right now, it looks like our solution to one problem—depression—may have a host of ecological repercussions.

-Via Mental Floss

Love cute animals? View more at Lifestyles of the Cute and Cuddly blog

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