Everything that is flushed down the toilet ends up flowing into rivers and seas, affecting ecosystems along the way. This is also true for dangerous illicit drugs such as methamphetamine that find their way into waterways and find their way inside foraging fish.
A study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology analyzed the influence of methamphetamine contamination in water on trout living near cities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. For eight weeks, they observed the behavior of two groups of 60 fish each, one kept in a tank of clean water and the other containing 1 microgram per liter of methamphetamine, an amount predicted to occur in rivers. and polluted streams.
“Such contamination could alter the functioning of entire ecosystems, as the adverse consequences are significant both at the individual level and at the population level,” said Pavel Horký, an ecologist at the Czech University of Life Sciences.
When they returned the fish to their natural habitats, Horký’s team found that those living in meth-laden water suffered from behavioral problems that could be attributed to withdrawal symptoms for up to four days.
The researchers also subjected the trout to an addiction experiment where they let them choose between a methamphetamine-contaminated area or fresh water in a tank. Surprisingly, fish previously exposed to contaminated water for eight weeks preferred the new area still steeped in methamphetamine.
“We predicted/expected that there would be signs of addiction, however, we were quite surprised by how well the whole system worked. Personally, I was mostly surprised by the fact that meth users can unknowingly cause methamphetamine addiction in the ecosystems around us,” Horký said.
The study’s findings showed that illegal drugs bring death and destruction wherever they are found, whether in human communities on land or in thriving ecosystems underwater.
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