A book of the week on Radio 4 that we particularly enjoyed was Jean Sprakland’s “Strands”. Sprackland writes about her experience of walking on the beaches of Ainsdale Sands in North West England. These daily meditations made compelling listening. In one essay, Sprackland writes about picking up an empty package of Prozac tablets which leads her to discuss how excess fluoxetine (the main chemical in antidepressants excreted by Prozac users) ends up in our oceans affecting our ecosystem. It would appear that fluoxetine affects the prawns on our coastline by causing them to throw caution to the wind – they swim towards the light where they become easy pickings for predators. This chemical also affects the reproduction of mussels and has been found in fish near Montreal – a worrying development with implications for our food chain.
This disturbing information resonated with recent scientific research carried out by scientists at Idaho University. They suggest that traces of antidepressants and other psychotic drugs in the water supply could be contributing to increases in autism. Pharmaceuticals are in the water system including the water we drink through human waste and the authors of this report suspect that tiny traces of the drugs in our water might interfere with the developing foetus, especially the genes associated with early brain development.
More research is needed for this to be firmly established but both sources highlight the fact that our bodies don’t metabolise all the medication we consume. More and more antidepressant drugs are being prescribed each year – almost doubling in the past decade. 70.9 prescriptions for antidepressants were given out in England in 2018 compared with 36 million in 2008 at huge financial cost but it seems that there is a disturbing environmental cost and possibly general health concerns too. Many people are helped by these drugs but in this light, we would argue that there should be greater and improved access to alternative and drug-free therapies especially as a first response.
Jocelyn and Kristina at Trance-Formed