Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Medication of Wildlife

There is plenty of evidence that many medicines widely prescribed and in use today have dubious pharmacological benefit.  Ben Goldacre's Bad Science has done much to illuminate this otherwise secretive world which is driven largely and solely by profit, whilst persisting on the premise of "trust me, I'm a doctor" rather than sound science.

But what of the downstream effects of the drugs we take?  In both a literal and physical sense, many of the medicines and unmetabolised compounds we consume get washed in to the water system where evidence is emerging of real damage to the environment.

Just as wolves can change rivers and pigs can restore the biodiversity of heathland, there is another side to this butterfly effect. The Guardian today reports that Prozac may be harming the bird population:
  • Increasing consumption of antidepressant drugs may be helping humans but damaging the health of the bird population, according to a new study.

    An expert who has looked at the effects of passive Prozac-taking on starlings says it has changed not only their feeding habits but also their interest in mating.

    Dr Kathryn Arnold, an ecologist from the University of York, said: “Females who’d been on it were not interested in the male birds we introduced them to. They sat in the middle of the cage, not interested at all.”
Another reason to stay healthy!*

(I understand there may be drug free ways of getting some of the benefits of Prozac without the downsides, such as regular sun exposure, regular, vigorous exercise and, addressing the issue of quality nutrition.)

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