Connect
To Top

Surging Out of Control: Why Recent Positive Traces of Opioids in Marine Life Has Health Officials Worried


As the number of American communities grappling with opioid addiction continually rises, the human toll has become staggering. In fact, it’s now safe to say that it’s severe!

To make matters worse, it looks like the drug is not only impacting the society, but also the environment.

A crisis in the making

Turns out that scientists at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife have discovered significant evidence that opioid drugs have impacted surrounding marine life. Looks like the drugs have been flowing downstream in nearby waters!

Opioid addiction is now moving from our homes to the environment, as a number of mussels test positive for opioid traces in Seattle

So how did they come to discover this? The scientists in question utilized mussels as a barometer to test the waters in Seattle. What they discovered was truly shocking.

It appears that oxycodone is now in plentiful supply in the tested waters. Enough to affect the marine environment; to the point that the shellfish in these waters have tested positive for traces of the substance!

Aquatic disturbance

Normally, mussels are filter feeders. Hence they absorb contaminants in the surrounding environment by absorbing them in their tissues; especially when the substances are in a highly concentrated manner.

In fact, in this experiment to test for opioids, scientists used cages to transplant uncontaminated mussels derived from an aquaculture source located in Whidbey Island. The mussels were then delivered to 18 urbanized locations in the Puget Sound area.

A few months later, they removed those previously uncontaminated mussels from the urban waters, with the help of the Puget Sound Institute, and proceeded to test them again.

It appears that the number of opioid users in the Puget Institute area has increased significantly; so much so that there are traces of the drug in surrounding marine fish

Flourishing drug culture

Startlingly, in three out of the 18 locations, the mussels tested positive for traces of oxycodone. So, wait a minute, how did this actualize?

Let’s break it down for you…

When humans take in opioids such as oxycodone, they end up excreting trace amounts of the drug when going to the toilet. Unfortunately, these chemicals end up in wastewater!

Heck, despite the fact that most of the contaminants in wastewater are filtered out before they are released into the oceans, wastewater management systems don’t have the ability to filter out all of the drugs entirely. Hence, the likes of antidepressants, opioids, and Melphalan (the common chemotherapy drug), happened to test positive in the mussels.

In a press statement, one of the biologists based at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Miss Jennifer Lanksbury, reaffirmed the likelihood that a large number of people are actually ingesting opioids in the Puget Sound locale!

Looming danger for fish

While it is less likely that the mussels in the area will be metabolizing drugs such as oxycodone, the same cannot be said for fish. In fact, fish have a much higher affinity for the drugs, causing harm to their tissues.

In fact, a recent study carried out by scientists based at the University of Utah revealed that zebrafish, if given the opportunity, will inadvertently dose themselves with opioids. This is truly alarming. The scientists are worried that the same can happen for other vital fish like salmon.

From wastewater to aquatic bodies

The Puget Sound Institute also noted that though the opioids were detected in fish, they were in doses a thousand times smaller than that found in humans.

Moreover, fortune seems to favor nearby residents as none of the mussels that were tested were located in the proximity of a commercial fishbed.

Fortunately, it seems that the opioids are yet to contaminate commercial fish as none of the fish nearby these Fishbeds tested positive for opioids.

That being said, the discovery of shellfish testing positive for opioids in the Puget Sound area is still alarming. Clearly, it marks quite a shocking milestone for the epidemic; one that has plagued America’s suburbia for years.

Moreover, it also confirms another statistic; that enough people are hooked on the drugs to leave positive traces of the chemical in the bodies of marine species living in nearby aquatic habitats!


More in Health & Well-being