Trout Are Becoming Addicted to Meth in Polluted Waters, Study Reveals

A new study reveals that brown trout can get addicted to small amounts of methamphetamine that appear in their freshwater environments, which includes experiencing signs of withdrawal. Though it might at first appear to be an odd subject to research, Live Science says meth pollutes rivers across the globe. "Where methamphetamine users are, there is also methamphetamine pollution of freshwaters," said Pavel Horký, the study's first author in an email to Live Science.

Aware of this fact, Horký and the other researchers wanted to know if the presence of illicit drugs in rivers had any effect on the fish living in those rivers. Horký and his team studied brown trout, and through their research, they determined not only could trout become addicted to the small amounts of meth polluting their homes but this addiction can hinder a trout's ability to get food, mate, etc.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology (JEB) on Tuesday. As stated in a separate article written about the study in the JEB, the team placed 40 trout into a tank that contained trace levels of meth that tracked with the levels regularly found in freshwater rivers. The trout remained in the tank for eight weeks before being moved to a clean tank.

After the fish were moved from the polluted tank to a clean one, researchers checked for withdrawal symptoms. To do this, they presented the fish with two options: the trout could swim in clean water, or they could swim in water containing trace amounts of the drug. Through this experiment, they found that, when given the choice, the fish who'd spent two months in the meth polluted tank would seek out the water laced with the drug. But that wasn't the only effect the illicit drug had on the fish.

"In addition, the addicted fish were less active than trout that had never experienced the drug," reads the article, "and the researchers found evidence of the drug in the fish's brains up to 10 days after the methamphetamine was withdrawn."

Horký and his team concluded that trace amounts of illicit drugs present in our waterways can cause addiction in and modify the "habitat preferences" of the creatures who live in them.

According to Live Science, the team wants to conduct further research to see if the same addiction patterns can be found in wild fish populations, as well as to see if other drugs, such as antidepressants, alter aquatic life.

Brown trout
A new study reveals brown trout are becoming addicted to methamphetamine in polluted rivers. BobGross/iStock