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Rx Drugs Make Fish Antisocial

Prescription drugs that leak into our lakes are impacting underwater creatures.

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By Ben Feuerherd

02/14/13

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Anti-anxiety drugs may have widespread effects beyond helping people cope with depression or anxiety. Some drugs like Oxazepam, which are not filtered out by sewage systems, make their way to fish, a new study shows. Researchers in Sweden put wild perch into tanks full of water tainted with drug levels comparable to what they'd find in their natural habitats. The perch placed in the oxazepam laced tanks were less social than the fish in control tanks, and put more distance between themselves and other fish, scientists found. These fish also ate faster than normal, and were more likely to enter unfamiliar territory. "We were very surprised,” says Jonatan Klaminder, one of the study's authors. “The concentrations out in the environment are very low, but it’s still enough to generate effects that we know are relevant for ecological processes.” This is not the first time scientists have looked into the impact of pharmaceuticals on fish. In a second study, ecologist Rebecca Klaper studied minnows exposed to fluoxetine, the active ingredient in Prozac. The chemical did not affect female minnows, but caused the males to exhibit obsessive compulsive behaviors; they spent unusually long periods of time building underwater nests while ignoring the female fish, and would actually kill females when doses were upped.

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