It seems that all the trout in my neighbourhood are really stoned – at least according to the findings in a recent study of the St-Lawrence River near Montreal, where a team of researchers have discovered large quantities of anti-depressants in the local trout populations.
It appears that the scientists are also beginning to wonder if the happy pills are having a significant impact on the trout (what about all the other fish?) and if their lifestyle will become somewhat altered by this universally problematic situation of chemical effluence – where most the pharmaceutical medicines humans ingest invariably wind up as residual body waste in our waters because most sewage treatment facilities, even the most sophisticated modern plants, are only able to deal with solid waste and unable to filter or eliminate pharmaceutical chemicals. The result is that everything from vitamin c to Viagra winds up in our rivers and lakes and enters the food chain, from plankton to predators and then back to humans if they choose to consume what they catch around the island. While the problem is a global one and not unique to this city, it is estimated that in Montreal alone over 500 million anti-depressant pills are purchased every year and ultimately wind up in our water. Imagine the numbers worldwide and the scope of this phenomenon.
The ground breaking study was conducted with teams of expert researchers from the University de Montréal and Environment Canada who analysed the internal organs of fifty brook trout that had been exposed for a period of three months to various levels of treated effluent from Montreal’s Sewage Treatment plant, reputed to be one of the largest and most sophisticated in the world. Not surprisingly, after screening their livers, brains, and muscle tissue, the scientists discovered quantities of anti-depressants that were sufficient enough to raise some serious biological concerns for the trout as the brain cells of a fish exposed to the effluent in a Petri dish were far less active than normal cells.
The scientists speculated that the high level of anti-depressants – particularly Prozac, although other identified brands included Paxil or Seroxet were also detected- may have a negative impact on their basic life patterns, such as feeding, mating, and reproductive behaviour. Admittedly, they don’t know what will happen as a result of this. Will trout get the munchies late at night and binge on chocolate and Chee-tos instead of worms and insects? Will their libidos diminish to the point that they will become just too lazy and mellow to embark on the exhaustingly stressful process of mating and reproduction and instead opt for lives of celibacy? At this point no one really knows for sure, not even the scientists that conducted the study. This is new territory for them – these are really stoned fish and there is no hard scientific data predicting how stoned fish will behave. One problem is that is both difficult and expensive to study trout, or any fish for that matter, in the wild. And you can’t just ask a trout how it feels, for example, if it is happy and feels fulfilled with its life or suffers from high anxiety and insecurity, or always tired and feels depressed and occasionally entertains thoughts of suicide. All humans can do to ensure the well-being of a trout, or any other fish for that matter, is to protect their basic ecology by leaving it alone and in its natural state. This would no doubt go a long way to ensure their happiness….they really don’t need the Prozac