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How Antidepressants May Impact the Health of Our Aquatic Ecosystems

The use of antidepressant pills has become synonymous with improved mental health, quelling sometimes crippling anxiety, and altering energy levels and behaviour. They are heavily relied upon when treating depression and general anxiety disorder.

In the past 20 years, European nations have seen consumption rates of antidepressants more than double. Closer to home, their usage amongst Canadian youth is surging. In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, these rates are only expected to rise, particularly when considering the affordability of and need for these medications.

However, many people are likely unaware of a hidden and perhaps surprising environmental cost associated with antidepressant usage. The rising use of antidepressants has led to a parallel spike in their presence in our ecosystems.

As a developmental toxicologist who has been studying the impact of our actions on aquatic life, I investigate the impacts of antidepressants on fish. Identifying and characterizing the potential damage to fish exposed to these neuroactive compounds is paramount for protecting the biodiversity of our aquatic ecosystems.

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