These substances find their way into the rivers via wastewater and Pavel Horký, a professor of zoology at the Prague University of Life Sciences, explains that people who use these illicit drugs can unknowingly cause dependency among the fish. According to the results of the research, published on July 6 in Experimental Biology, acute and immediate consumption of methamphetamine increased brain activity in the fish for a short period of time, while during abstinence brain activity decreased. “Rewards derived from cravings for drugs among the fish could replace natural rewards such as the search for food or mating, says Horký.
The scientist notes that the direct effect on the behavior of the trout could vary due to many aspects, such as the length of exposure to the drug and its concentration. “The most serious consequence is that the drug alters the natural behavioral patterns of the animals, he says via email. “The contamination of the rivers with these substances could change the functioning of entire ecosystems.
To reach these conclusions, the team led by Horký, in coordination with colleagues from the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, designed an experiment that measured the level of addiction among the fish. The scientists divided 120 brown trout in two tanks filled with 350 liters of water for eight weeks. To do so, they designed a tank with two grates that simulated the flow of a river. On the other side, the water was unadulterated.
This, according to the research team, could “reduce their likelihood of survival and reproduction.
The conclusions of the study are worrying: “Our results suggest that emission of illicit drugs into freshwater ecosystems causes addiction in fish and modifies habitat preferences with unexpected adverse consequences of relevance at the individual and population levels. The study is yet another example, the team says, of the transmission of human societal problems to aquatic ecosystems.
We know that where there are methamphetamine users, there is also freshwater contamination by methamphetamine, says Horký.
A 2018 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that methamphetamine is the most-used synthetic drug in the world and that its consumption has increased exponentially over the last few years.
The findings made by Horký and his team are similar to those of a US research group that recently showed how amphetamines are changing the foundations of life in the rivers of North America. According to this study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, wastewater carries narcotics that affect algae, bacteria and river insects.
This is bad news for the organisms that rely on the biofilms for nourishment. The Czech team drew a final conclusion from the study: “Human contamination is often evident in oil spills and plastic waste that washes up on shores, but many of the drugs that we consume also end up in the water, and the current treatment techniques for wastewater plants and rivers are not sufficient to eliminate them. In view of this, many governments analyze river water to measure the level of drug consumption among populations. In the European Union alone, 67 cities carry out periodic examinations of wastewater as part of their drug control programs.
The Czech Republic is the largest producer of methamphetamine in Europe, an illicit drug generally known under the name Pervitin, the scientist explains. originally it played a similar role to that of LSD in the US during the hippie movement.