Friday, February 15, 2013

Pump up the bass!

Did you ever flush a big ol' handful of Xanax down the toilet, just to see what effect it had on the fish downstream? Me neither. But that's because you and I aren't scientists trolling for those sweet, sweet grant dollars.

That's okay, though, because those twenty-pound brains that are always pushing the frontiers of human knowledge have done it for us!

In a study to find out what effect anti-anxiety drugs had on Sea Kittens, researchers in Sweden exposed fish to levels of benzodiazepine "representing conditions that perch likely experience in streams and rivers" and discovered that they got a little hyper and "less social", I guess going to fewer fish bingo games and piscine PTA meetings or something.

Apparently not finding these results interesting enough, they decided to get the little buggers really stoned, upping the dosage to as much as 500 times higher than what they'd likely experience, perhaps simulating what would happen if the critters were to swim up the sewage outlet pipe at the Pfizer plant, and were stunned to find out that the fish got bolder, as well as getting a raging case of the munchies:
Before exposure, it took a single fish more than 4½ minutes to consume 20 zooplankton. After low levels of exposure to oxazepam, the fish ate faster, shaving about 30 seconds off the pre-exposure time. Fish exposed to the highest level of oxazepam consumed the same amount of zooplankton in less than three minutes. Not only were the exposed fish feeding faster; they also started eating earlier in the trial than they had before being exposed to the drug.
This could be bad, because the things the perch eat are things that eat algae, and too much algae is a bad thing. (No word on whether they repeated the experiment on species of fish that, you know, ate algae, to see if we could maybe get them all geeked up on Xanax and turn them loose on algal blooms...)

This being Sweden, I'm waiting to hear that at least one member of the research team, realizing that he'd gone to school for twenty-plus years only to wind up at the pinnacle of his career standing in a lab getting fish high, went home and locked all the garage doors and left the Volvo running.

So there you have it: Should you find yourself in possession of a large quantity of Xanax, don't flush it down the toilet. Give it to a Swedish scientist instead, because they are obviously too obsessive and high-strung.


Stuart the Viking said...

dude... it's the old "Lets get the dog baked and see what he does" thing... only with fish. Swedish fish... Maybe that's why they are so yummy.


Ancient Woodsman said...

Getting the fish stoned? Right.

I can imagine that your Swedish schientist would indeed lock all the garage doors & leave the Volvo running, but forget the part about being inside the garage with the running car. He'd stand outside with his stopwatch and clipboard, timing how long 'it' takes, without realizing the missing factor. Some earth-shattering conclusions would be drawn about something-er-other, and he'd get some form of recognition from his peers...and another grant.

Next up from Sweden: mathematical proof that snowflakes are cold, and when warmed at a certain rate, readily convert back to water. Seems like common sense, but has anyone actually verified this with a proper scientific examination? No? Well, Sweden can! And if Sweden can, well then we need a similar experiment right here, preferably at the University of Chicago, where we'll forgo the snowflake thing and see how long it takes for an average $1 bill to spawn from the native habitat of the gutter in to a few stacks of $100 bills, complete a hazardous seasonal migration, and magically wind up in the pockets of the mayor to hibernate there until the next election season.

Living in Babylon said...

So...anybody know where this stream is? I have a pretty realistic perch costume if you can overlook the fact that the perch is far too large. And doped up. And chain smoking benson & hedges menthols. And threatening to shank you if you stop putting happy pills in the water.

On second thought, perhaps this is a bad plan.

Jim said...

Normally, I wouldn't comment on such a fishy story, but this one smelt badly enough to stink up my perch here in Galveston.

Using my best judgement, I think the scales tilt towards the Sweedish scientists having spawned a whopper of a theory, but it didn't weigh-in as claimed.

I'll just clam up, now.

Sunk New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Tam said...

Pump up the bass!

Tam said...

Damn, that should have been my post title...

Robb Allen said...

Have they attempted to document the fish downstream of where Charlie Sheen's sewage is dumped?

skidmark said...

Swedish scientists study something connected to water. Why?

Swedish Bikini Team!

Did anybody really think those geeks cared about the fish, or even about humanity? When there was a chance to get close to the Swedish Bikini Team?

stay safe.

Tam said...

Robb Allen,

"Have they attempted to document the fish downstream of where Charlie Sheen's sewage is dumped?"

The weird thing is that, despite being fish, hemoglobin analysis showed they all had tiger blood.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe this is a Swedish study without what chapters on the effect the drugs had on the fishes sex life.

Maybe that's in the follow up study.


Jennifer said...

Sounds like the Mythbusters school of experiments. Didn't get the results you were looking for? Use more!
Except, they haven't blown them up yet.

JohninMd.(HELP!?) said...

I think Jim in Galveston won. All I have to add is: SAVE THE ZOOPLANKTON!!

Scott J said...

Apologies for bringing a dark thought to such a humorous post but I think all these drugs need to be studied for their role in spawning mass shooters.

I honestly think they're like "The Pax" from "Firefly" in that they have the opposite of intended effect on should 1% of their usage population turning them into something like Reavers.

RevolverRob said...

Come on now...the Swedes just don't have cool things to spend sweet, sweet, grant dollars on. Like a space program, or the western interior of the United States and its seemingly endless paleontological treasures. I honestly just feel bad for them.

But this does bring up a point, I keep having to make to my colleagues. You can no longer expect to have research funded, because it is "interesting". Lots of things are interesting, but unless you can provide a tangible benefit to science and education it's not worth funding. Bonus points if you hit the NSF trifecta of science, education, and technology. Triple-double secret bonus points if you can make it applicable to cancer research.


Stuart the Viking said...

Scott J,

That would be interesting to look into. Since the anti's are running around trying to ban things that (they say) are common to all these mass shooting incidents, maybe they would like to look into banning anti-depressants also (assuming you are right). Oh... and pants. I'm pretty sure that all these guys were wearing pants. Shoes maybe?


Robert Fowler said...

" Swedish fish... Maybe that's why they are so yummy."

I laughed so hard I had to explain to the CSU* that I wasn't completely insane.

*Command Spousal Unit.

global village idiot said...

Long time ago, I saw a news story where scientists were saying diet pop was bad for you. I dug deeper (this was in the early 80s when you had to, y'know, LOOK STUFF UP), and discovered that the scientists conducting the study fed lab rats the equivalent of several horse-sized doses of diet pop and - quelle surprise - they got sick.

I wrote this up for a paper in school, concluding that it was the same thing as holding a lab rat underwater for 10 minutes and saying that water's bad for you.

English teacher, not being a science teacher, disagreed with the thesis and I didn't get the grade I thought my work merited.


Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

She was probably upset that you had even considered hurting that poor little rat. What did that rat ever do to you?

At least that's what my freshman English instructor probably would have done :)

rickn8or said...

Any mention of on-medication, off-medication, back on-medication adolescent perch going on a murder spree?

I'm wondering if the scientists locked themselves in a room with the Xanax, had themselves a party, and started writing stuff down while all ganked up.

og said...

The swedes flush their toilets into rivers and streams? Have they not heard of sewage treatment? Seepage beds? Septic tanks?

I suppose this explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

Yeh they do these "studies" for DEA & DHS grant $$ every year or two. They all say/find the same thing. Duggs BAD- Jackboots GOOD. Now Genuflect to the god-king and shutup citizen.

Kristophr said...

Reaver Fish!

NotClauswitz said...

If it works well for fish, they need to feed it to the Algae so that they can have a fighting (back) chance.
But the Swedish scientist just went home and made a sandwich for his Wife who works at the Volvo factory and has the real job.

NotClauswitz said...

And who put the Loot in Lutefisk?

Anonymous said...

@ og and any one else who is curious,

Current wastewater treatment technology can produce a very clean effluent with regards to biological nutrients (phosphorus compounds, ammonia, nitrates, etc.) as well as pathogens. However, most pharmaceuticals that get flushed will pass through a treatment plant unaffected and continue on to the receiving waters. There have already been studies showing flushed pharmaceuticals, particularly hormones such as birth control pills, having damaging effects on fish and amphibians downstream.
I work in the water treatment industry and there is currently a lot of money being spent on R&D in the industry to come up with ways to better remove pharmaceuticals from wastewater. The systems used by the drug companies are small, very expensive, and do not scale up for municipal use.  While there are no current effluent standards for pharmaceutical waste in municipal wastewater, the EPA is studying the problem with the intent to set standards in the future, hence the industry research in order to be ready when the new regs get put in place.
In short, it is a real problem and there is plenty of private money being spent on finding a solution to it. That said, this particular research project sounds nutty.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Well, at least MY taxpayer dollars wasn't wasted on such silly studies. I mean, could you imagine if, say , oh I don't know, that some of a $7 million Grant was used to "Prove" that the Tea Party was actually a Front for BIG TOBACCO?

Oh wait...

og said...

Corey: I am aware of the process, and was of course being sarcastic. A company I used to work for half a lifetime ago sold filtration systems and deflocculating agents to wastewater treatment plants, so I've seen them in use. I think the very best thing to do, unless the police are actually breaking down the door at the time, is to NOT FLUSH YOUR DAMNED DRUGS DOWN THE TOILET. Now, the fun part of this is that the FDA specifically reccomends flushing some drugs, which is just BRILLIANT.

On the other hand, I'm really popular with trick-or-treaters. (That was sarcasm again)

Walmart and Walgreens around here do take back old or out of date drugs, I don't know if that's the same everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, didn't catch the sarcasm there. I am just so used to most people not knowing that treatment plants don't remove everything from the water, only certain things. It doesnt help when like you mention one gov't agency has been telling people for years to flush old drugs and another has more recently been saying not to.

Of course, working as a designer in the industry, I have a very long list of things I wish people would not put down the drain just to make my job easier. ;)


og said...

Yeah, I hear you. I expect that most people have no idea how effluent is treated.
And if i had a dollar for each time I moved into a new place and had to snake a drain, and found the clog consisted of a mix of hair and used french safes, I'd have- well, I'd have several dolars.

Joe in PNG said...

"We were somewhere around Stockholm on the edge of the stream when the drugs began to take hold..."

-From "Fear and Loathing in Swedish Rivers" by Hunter S. Salmon

The Great and Powerful Oz said...

Obviously they are trying to develop an addictive strain of lutefisk to unleash on those of us who live in warmer climates. This will produce the necessary capital so that they can displace us in these climes.

The weather here has been chilly the last couple of days, the lows have been in the mid-40s...

Andrew Weitzman said...

Thing is, you never know if a "silly" experiment ends up being of use down the line. Take the many episodes of "Connections" or Bryson's "A Brief History of Everything"--full of examples where a weird obsession with X turns out to have an important influence on Y.

Anonymous said...

I'm clearly missing the sarcasm here; because it seems to me that this isn't that wacky a study. Not necessarily the Most useful, but... Given that pharmaceuticals aren't stopped by any municipal waste water treatment systems, let alone a septic tank; knowing the level at which the chemicals start to have an appreciable impact on the down-stream ecosystem, even if it is off the chart of expected amounts isn't bad science. If the study comes back with the conclusion that the amount is entirely off the chart, then the chemicals in question may be a lower priority or have none at all. Useful for designing filters and testing protocols.

Now, what one does with the study and why and under what bias the study was funded...that may be another kettle of fish entirely.

Tam said...

But that's not very funny.