An article in the New York Times today (2.15.13) reported, “Traces of a common psychiatric medication that winds up in rivers and streams may affect fish behavior and feeding patterns.” The Swedish researchers exposed perch to different concentrations of an anti-anxiety medication—Oxazepam. Oxazepam is a benzodiazepine drug similar to the U.S. drug Xanax.
The scientists found that fish exposed to low-dose Oxazepam became less social, more active, and ate faster. In humans, benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety. They can cause the same adverse effects seen in the fish—social withdrawal, paradoxical excitement, and an increased appetite.
In the Swedish study, researchers found wild perch in the Fyris River near the city of Uppsala had high concentrations of Oxazepam in their muscle tissue.
Other researchers have found pharmaceuticals near waste water treatment centers in the water ways and in fish. Studies have reported that Prozac and Zoloft–two antidepressants–have been found in fish. Furthermore, commonly prescribed synthetic hormones have also been found in aquatic environments.by