The Case Of The Addicted Trout: What You Need To Know About That Viral Fish And Meth Story
Fish addicted to meth? Seriously?
If you’re as extremely online as certain blog writers are, you probably recently came across some variety of that headline in your news feeds. At a glance, it sounds ridiculous – how do fish even get meth? Are they smoking it? Is it a SpongeBob-goes-Breaking Bad kind of thing?
Not exactly. Think of it more as a parable illustrating just how powerful substance abuse can be.
How Do Methamphetamines Get Into Water?
Basically, when people using methamphetamines use the bathroom, they excrete small amounts of meth. Their waste goes into the sewer system, where it eventually makes its way to a water treatment plant.
The problem is, water treatment plants by and large are not equipped to deal with chemicals like meth when they process wastewater. Those small amounts of meth get released into waterways along with the treated wastewater.
And like all waste, it can add up over time.
Researchers in the Czech Republic have indeed detected small amounts of meth in their waterways. By “small,” we mean small: the amounts are in the hundreds of nanograms per liter. One nanogram equals one billionth of a gram. If you very carefully took just one of the estimated 100 trillion cells in your body and weighed it, it would weigh around one nanogram.
Those are very small amounts indeed, and it’s not clear what effects amounts of meth that small have on the environment. So those researchers decided to investigate further.
Test Fish Showed Drug Seeking, Addictive Behaviors
The Czech researchers took 120 brown trout from a hatchery, divided them into two equal groups, and placed them into separate 350-liter tanks (about 92.5 gallons). One tank had water containing levels of methamphetamine equivalent to what the researchers had measured in their waterways; the other didn’t.
After two months, the researchers took both groups of fish outside their respective tanks. Over a 10-day “withdrawal” period, the researchers randomly chose fish from both groups. Those fish were placed into a third tank, constructed so two streams of water could flow through it – like a freshwater stream. One stream was pure water, the other contained amounts of methamphetamines.
Here’s where it gets interesting. The fish from the water without meth showed no particular preference for the two streams. The fish from the meth tank, however, tended to exclusively stay in the stream containing amounts of meth.
Interestingly, the fish exposed to meth also had higher levels of methamphetamines in their brains and were also less active. For the researchers, this combination was alarming.
Speaking to NewScientist, study author Pavel Horký, PhD, of the Czech University of Life Sciences, said the findings did not bode well for the environment. “Drug reward cravings by fish could overshadow natural rewards like foraging or mating. Such contamination could change the functioning of whole ecosystems,” said Horký.
This issue isn’t a new one, either. Scientists have been concerned about the effects of pharmaceutical drugs showing up in waterways for some time. As we’ve explained, the amounts detected so far are small. But there’s still reason to be concerned about the possible effects our drugs may have on fish … and the people who might consume them.
To most, this is simply another interesting story, and perhaps easy to dismiss. For those of us in the treatment world, Horký’s words have a particular truth:
Overshadowing natural rewards is exactly what methamphetamines do to people who use them.
How Methamphetamines Work
First created in the early decades of the 20th century, methamphetamines were initially used to treat everything from weight loss to mood disorders. More powerful than their predecessor, amphetamine, pharmaceutical methamphetamines were used by all sides during WWII to combat fatigue and stay alert. However, by the 1970s the drug’s harmful nature and potential for abuse were becoming clear, and meth has been an illicit, clandestinely manufactured substance ever since.
Whether it’s injected, inhaled, smoked, or swallowed, methamphetamine has the same effects. The drug rapidly increases amounts of the neurotransmitter dopamine. A chemical used in the body’s reward system, dopamine is why we feel good after doing certain activities, particularly those which further our existence.
Ordinarily, the body simply drips out dopamine. When meth is used, that drip gets turned on full blast, saturating our body’s reward pathways with dopamine and giving users the euphoric rush meth is associated with. The drug also constricts blood vessels and sends the heart into overdrive, which is why heart attacks are a specific risk of meth use.
That euphoric rush is precisely why people get addicted – the feelings are so intense people continue to use meth to experience the same sensation. However, like all drugs, it’s easy to build up a tolerance to meth’s effects, which forces the user to take more and more of the drug to recreate the first experience.
Addiction Is Powerful, But There’s A Way Out
Addictive behaviors can be so intense, a person addicted to meth will neglect other things in their life like their job, their family, and in some cases, their hygiene. Google “meth mouth” and you’ll see why this causes one of methamphetamine abuse’s most graphic and infamous symptoms.
As Horký said, meth cravings could potentially stop fish from their normal behaviors. Meth certainly does that to people. Unlike fish, though, we’re able to get help for drug-seeking behavior. Rehab can break addiction’s harmful behavior patterns, showing people there’s a better way to get through life without reliance on a harmful, addictive substance.
Located in Southern California, The Edge Treatment Center takes a holistic view of drug and alcohol treatment. Our Orange County rehab center provides evidence-backed care for methamphetamine abuse, helping our clients live full, healthy lives in recovery free from addiction.
Don’t wait – contact us today for more info, a free consultation, and more!