A common antianxiety drug called oxazepam appears to work really well.
On fish, anyway.
Just one problem. Wild fish don’t need anxiety relief.
As I’ve mentioned before, we humans excrete drugs in our urine. We also flush expired or unused drugs down the toilet.
Of course, those drugs don’t just disappear. Traces end up in rivers and streams. And those traces have begun adding up.
Now, as far as we know, they’re not affecting you and me. That is, there’s no evidence. But you know how that goes. There may not be any evidence for years. And then, suddenly, the evidence shows up with a vengeance.
That’s what happened with wild perch. In a Swedish experiment, researchers found that oxazepam exposure prompted the perch to become antisocial and bolder. They were even willing to leave safe refuge.
Scientists believe these behavioral changes will make the perch more vulnerable to predators.
As I say, there’s no evidence that anything like this is happening to humans. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t.
It’s pretty frightening to recognize that, over time, the water we drink might actually alter our behavior. But we might not even notice. Especially if the changes happen slowly, and to everyone.
We might all wake up one day inexplicably obsessed with a little girl named Honey Boo Boo.
It could happen.
“Antianxiety Medication Affects Fish Behavior” Robert Lee Hotz, The Wall St. Journal, 2/14/13, wsj.com