Anti-depressants, anxiety meds messing with water life in Dutch canals, lakes
High concentrations of anti-depressants and anxiety inhibitors pose a risk to water life in Dutch ditches, canals, and lakes, according to research by Maastricht University, the RIVM, and other scientists. These medicines are so common in Dutch surface water that they are affecting aquatic life’s behaviors, Trouw reports.
“The substances carbamazepine, oxazepam, and fluoxetine are regularly found” in the surface water, RIVM researcher Caroline Moermond said to the newspaper. Carbamazepine is often prescribed against epilepsy and bipolar disorder. Oxazepam is a commonly described medicine for anxiety, tension, and insomnia. And Fluoxetine is an antideperssant.
The researchers found that the drugs affect things like water flea reproduction - something standardly tested for. But for the first time, they also noticed changes in water organisms’ behavior. “The changing behavior in many organisms that we see in the lab is the most interesting,” Moermond said to Trouw. “And those effects on behavior take place at much lower concentrations. According to international agreements, this is not taken into account when we determine the level of a risk limit.”
The researchers found crustaceans showing signs of hyperactivity, fish acting recklessly, and polyps having more trouble attaching to the bottoms of rivers and ditches, among other things. The European Union needs to add behavioral assessments to its methods of determining what concentration of a drug is safe to have in surface water, Moermond said.
Maastricht University psychiatrist Jurjen Luykx said he was pleasantly surprised that not all substances that psychiatrists and GPs regularly prescribe end up in the surface water in high concentrations. But he urged his colleagues to be more alert when prescribing medicines.
Patients should also be better informed about how to safely dispose of unused medicines - by handing them in at the pharmacy. “Don’t throw them away. The package leaflet says you should not flush medicines down the sink or toilet or throw them in the garbage can, but that is poorly read. And it is not in our guidelines and patient leaflets. We can take a step further in that,” Luykx said.