A somewhat wacky study claims that shrimp that have been exposed to Prozac are exhibiting suicidal tendencies. Apparently, water polluted with Prozac, or more specifically fluoexetine, Prozac’s essential ingredient, effects the chemical balance of shrimp’s brains, making them more sensitive to seratonin, the chemical responsible for mood regulation.
Typically, shrimp lurk in the safe, dark parts of the watery depths. However, after exposure to Prozac run-off, they are five times more likely to against their natural instinct and swim into the light, where their predators prowl.
As interesting as this theory is, the idea that these little crustaceans are purposefully trying to kill themselves seems a bit absurd. It’s hard to imagine a shrimp of all things suffering under the crushing weight of an existential crisis, and then choosing to end it all.
Surely a more likely explanation would be that the chemical affects their light sensitivity or makes them less alert?
Nevertheless, as amusing as this so-called study is, the evidence that marine-life can be effected by the pollutants as a result of our psychiatric drugs is certainly a serious matter.
What Are Our Drugs Doing to Us?
The mere fact that suicide was the inclined assumption behind the shrimp’s behaviour is telling. This highlights a growing worry that the side effects of psychiatric medication may be more harmful than beneficial.
For Prozac alone the criticism and outcry has been extensive. Patient safety is a serious concern, as the known effects include delirium, hallucinations, convulsions, violent hostility, aggression, psychosis, suicide.
Dr. David Healy, one of the world’s leading research psychopharmacologists, estimates that at least 250,000 people have attempted suicide worldwide simply because of Prozac.
Further, the manufacturers of Prozac have long been dogged by reports of ignoring or hiding evidence of the adverse effects of Prozac and failing to adequately communicate potential dangers to the public.
Despite the widespread criticism, Prozac has still enjoyed a reputation for being a wonder drug. When the drug came out in the 80s, doctors, patients and the media were excited by the claim that unlike other psychiatric drugs, Prozac only specifically targeted the serotonin neurotransmitter, and therefore was less likely to affect the rest of the brain.
This is misleading, however, as serotonin nerves spread throughout the entire brain, and so even if a chemical did only directly affect one part, there would be untold reactions throughout the brain. Brain chemistry is exceptionally complex, sensitive and interconnected. To say that the rest of the brain will be left untouched is ludicrous.
However, it need be pointed out that there certainly are many cases of Prozac having helped sufferers of depression. This does not mean, however, that we should have the mentality that there is simply a magic pill to fix our lives. It is important that we remain critical of the medication we use.
In any case, there are more natural alternatives to try out before going down the psychotherapy route. Such as treating underlying physical ailments, changing diet and lifestyle, undergoing non-medicated therapy, and using natural medication like St John’s Wort.
Whatever we do, however, as long as we make the effort to do research beforehand so as to make an informed, critical decision.