Antidepressants form a significant part of our world. The CDC states that over 13% of Americans admitted to taking antidepressants between 2015 and 2018. While we’re well aware how these drugs impact our bodies to a great extent, we don’t know how it affects the world around us. Unfortunately, we need to figure out how wildlife deals with antidepressants. If there’s a significant impact on their behavior, it could ripple throughout the food chain. Humans may be inadvertently destroying ecosystems through their actions. Are antidepressants filtering into the environment a severe problem?
Don’t They Break Down?
When human beings consume something, and it passes through our digestive tract, our bodies usually break it down. That’s not strictly true for antidepressants. Some of the compounds contained in the drugs pass through our bodies and enter the environment through excretion. The result is that they end up in several ecosystems and can have a negative impact on the animals there. When wildlife consumes these antidepressants, it can impact how they function in their ecological niche. The most disturbing part is how unpredictable the effects on animal behavior can be. When these drugs were formulated, they focused on human physiology. How much of an impact are they having on animals? Are they causing wildlife to leave their instincts behind or giving new imperatives to act on? We’re still in the dark about these drugs’ impact on most marine species. The ones we have studied, however, raise some valid concerns.
What Sort of Behavioral Problems Occur?
There are several reports of behavior being changed after exposure to antidepressants. National Geographic mentions that crayfish act more aggressively after consuming antidepressants. While this might not seem like a big deal, animals in their natural environments depend on their instincts to interact. Behavior like this might cause crayfish to take unnecessary risks in defending their homes, leading to death from predators that they could have otherwise avoided. Other behavioral changes see fish reacting slower, leaving them more vulnerable to predators in the wild. These behaviors are not natural and stem from the animals’ consumption of antidepressant meds directly from human beings.
Is Anything Being Done?
Internationally, there has been a minor response to the impact these drugs are having on the environment. Unfortunately, the effect is so minor that most administrations don’t even need a company to demonstrate environmental safety for their medicines. This response might be due to the small sample size of studies dealing with the impact of antidepressants on different aquatic wildlife, but the number of these studies is growing. With time, we may see a completely changed view of antidepressants and their regulatory process. As it stands right now, human beings don’t have enough information to call for industry regulation. More needs to be learned, and it requires both private companies and governments to take an interest in the impact these drugs have on the world around us. As it stands now, no LPC requirements take this specific situation into account, but it should. With time, even that may change, but we can only hope.