Perch are shy. They like to band together for protection, swimming together in schools the way nerds all share the nerd table in the high-school cafeteria. But now that lots of people are taking anti-anxiety drugs and their drug-laced pee has ended up in waterways, perch are acting differently, in ways that suggest they too have been mentally affected by these drugs. They’ve gotten cooler. They like to do stuff alone. Hunting, swimming, all the other perch stuff — they just like to fly solo.
These findings, published in the journal Science, come courtesy of researchers at Sweden’s Umea University. They tested fish by putting them in water that had a similar concentration of these drug byproducts found in wastewater in urban areas of Sweden. While it’s obviously disturbing that a fish’s personality could change from exposure to human drugs, there is also concern that the fish are eating more quickly, and as they do so, leaving areas at risk of increased algae production. The researchers aren’t proposing that humans stop taking these drugs, only that water filtration be improved to lessen their potency in wastewater.
Of course, there is also the issue that people who didn’t want anti-anxiety drugs before they read about this will want them now.