Shrimp on Prozac Commit Suicide

Photo: Ben Sutherland/Flickr.

Throughout history, there have been far too many people who become suicidal because somebody called them a "shrimp." Antidepressants can have the unfortunate and ironic side effect of causing suicidal tendencies. But real shrimp pitching themselves into the open mouth of a predator because they're on Prozac?

It sounds too absurd to be true, but according to Salon, a recent study found that shrimp exposed to Prozac display suicidal behavior. As humans ingest and excrete untold amounts of pharmaceuticals, many of those drugs — including fluoexetine, Prozac's main ingredient — end up in the water.

After ingesting Prozac, are legions of shrimp losing all hope and wishing to die? Not exactly. Study author Dr. Alex Ford is quick to note that shrimp aren't people, but fluoexetine does have an effect upon the shrimps' brains, making their nerves more sensitive to seratonin, the brain chemical responsible for moods and sleep patterns.

When exposed to the chemical, shrimp are five times more likely to swim toward bright areas of water instead of sticking to their usual dark, safe corners.

"This behavior makes them much more likely to be eaten by a predator, such as a fish or bird," Ford told National Geographic.

Such reckless behavior in shrimp isn't the only way Prozac and other antidepressant medications can affect wildlife. The study authors note that drugs cause unusual behavior in many other species as well.

The consequences of pharmaceuticals in wastewater are only now being explored, and the issue extends beyond the improper dumping of unused medication. Since many drugs are not entirely metabolized by our bodies, drugs get into our wastewater.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called the issue "a growing concern" and has begun testing for many drugs at water treatment plants around the nation.