If you thought that only humans can get high, think again. Drug abuse is prevalent not only among humans but also among animals. A fascinating example of this is fish getting high.
Sounds bizarre, right? Well, there’s more to the story than what meets the eye. Scientists have discovered that certain types of fish are attracted to drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine. These substances entering our water bodies has become a major concern for various reasons.
“Just because it doesn’t affect humans doesn’t mean it won’t affect other species.” -Chloe Keay
Reports suggest that fish consuming these drugs could lead to abnormal behavior, impaired swimming abilities, reduced reproduction rates and even death. Many environmentalists and animal lovers around the globe have raised concerns over the potential harm drug pollution might cause.
But how do these drugs find their way into our seas, rivers, and lakes? Human activities like flushing unused prescription pills down the toilet or excretion of consumed drugs pass through sewage systems and eventually reach waterways. The wastewater treatment plants designed to clean up sewage water aren’t effective in removing drugs from wastewater, which ultimately leads to contaminated water bodies.
The question of whether fish can really get high may seem comical, but its effects cannot be ignored. With new studies showing the increasing levels of drug contamination in our water bodies, we need to delve deeper into understanding the impact-of-drug-use on marine life.
What Happens When Fish Get High?
Can fish get high? Surprisingly, the answer is yes. It turns out that fish can also be affected by drugs like marijuana to some extent. However, what happens when fish get high? Let’s explore.
The Effects of Marijuana on Fish
Marijuana contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which can create psychoactive effects in humans and animals. When THC enters the bloodstream, it binds with cannabinoid receptors present in the brain and nervous system.
According to a study published in the Journal of Aquatic Animal Health, some species of fish have similar endocannabinoid systems like mammals, including humans. The study found that juvenile coho salmon exposed to low levels of THC showed changes in feeding behavior and reduced activity level compared to non-exposed fish. Similarly, zebrafish exposed to THC exhibited alterations in their swimming pattern and physiological responses.
Another study published in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior investigated the effect of synthetic cannabinoids on goldfish. The researchers observed an increase in exploratory and social behaviors among the goldfish exposed to cannabinoids. Additionally, they noted that the drug caused impairment of coordination in the fishes’ movements and increased heart rate.
How Fish React to Drugs
Fishes’ reaction to drugs depends on various factors such as their size, age, species, and concentration of the substance. Similar to humans and other living beings, fishes’ response to any drugs depends upon their body mass index (BMI).
A study conducted by Oregon State University tested the response of juvenile chinook salmon after exposure to caffeine. The researchers found that the fish became hyperactive and reckless. Moreover, they show no fear or anxiety toward predators that usually induce avoidance-like behavior in them. Similar results were observed when the researchers exposed the fish to amphetamines.
On the other hand, fishes like guppies have been used as test subjects in various studies to understand how drugs affect their behavioral and physiological responses. These small-sized fishes respond differently depending on the concentration of the drug.
The Risks of Fish Getting High
While experimenting with animals for science purposes is not new, exposing them to psychoactive substances may lead to some serious ethical questions. The aquatic ecosystem and marine life can be widely affected by humans’ waste disposal systems that often include pharmaceutical and illicit drug residues.
Fishes absorbing these residues through contaminated water sources can face severe withdrawal symptoms and even addiction if exposed to high doses frequently. For example, cocaine and its derivatives are found at alarmingly high levels in rivers near cities where wastewater treatment plants release processed sewage water.
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has strict legal regulations against any direct exposure of marine fishes and mammals to illegal drugs or narcotics. However, they have no control over indirect contamination and poisoning via water bodies caused by human activity.
“Humans must limit their environmental impact, conserve natural resources, and clean up degraded ecosystems so that freshwater and marine ecosystems remain healthy for all forms of life.” -Robert Hinckley
Fishes can also get high, but the effects vary based on species, age, size, and dosage. While scientifically exploring the effect of drugs on aquatic life can be fulfilling, it poses an ethical dilemma concerning possible risks and consequences. We should work towards maintaining a safer environment for our aquatic counterparts by regulating our behavior toward nature’s conservation and respecting wildlife welfare.
How Do Fish Get High?
Contaminated Water Sources
Various studies have shown that fish can get high from different drugs through contaminated water sources. In urban areas, sewage treatment plants often do not filter out pharmaceuticals or recreational drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy present in the wastewater. As a result, these substances make their way into natural waterways and can impact marine life.
A study conducted by the Institute of Marine Research revealed traces of illegal drugs like cocaine and amphetamines in shrimp dancing on European coasts. More recently, researchers in Seattle found high levels of opioids including Oxycodone and Fentanyl in mussels downstream from drug users. The opioid epidemic that has taken root across various cities worldwide is also slowly having an effect on aquatic ecosystems.
Accidental Exposure to Drugs
Sometimes, fish might be accidentally exposed to drugs when they consume other fish that could be carrying chemicals like cannabis. Fish are known to eat almost anything, and this includes consuming fallen bud leaves containing Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Although THC is insoluble in water, it can cling to fat, which enables marijuana buds to remain active even when diluted in water.
In recent years, there have been cases where large groups of birds and sea creatures such as seagulls, otters and seals have become intoxicated after mistakenly eating pufferfish. Just like Pufferfish contain Tetrodotoxin, certain species of fishes carry psychoactive compounds in their skins, gonads or livers. These powerful hallucinogens can sometimes affect predators if consumed in large doses.
Intentional Human Intervention
Fish getting high has also been attributed to intentional human intervention whereby people introduce controlled amounts of illicit substances to aquariums to see the effects on their fish. As absurd as this may sound, it is quite rampant and has led to several instances of addiction and death among aquatic creatures.
In one case, a pair of goldfish owners fed their pet fish heroin in an attempt to cure them from swim bladder disease, failing to realize they could have simply changed the tank’s water supply or added salt to aid their bejesus. Another high-profile video that circulated online showed teen boys blowing cannabis smoke into goldfish bowls while laughing at the spectacle of watching them “get high.”
Transfer from Other Animals
Fish getting high through transfer from other animals might seem like something snapped out of a sci-fi movie, but there’s scientific evidence suggesting otherwise. For example, Dolphins are known for using pufferfish more or less as recreational toys. By biting down just hard enough on to these little inflated critters, dolphins release Tetrodotoxin which creates a drug-like effect similar to a human taking morphine.
“Dolphins show some aspects of drug-seeking behavior… where dolphins hurt themselves to get access to pufferfish toxins.” – Jason Bruck, University of Chicago researcher
Other marine creatures such as blackbirds and bottle-nosed dolphins have been observed consuming fermented fruits containing ethanol to alter their mental state. The practice of pursuing alcohol is referred to as “zoopharmacognosy” by animal experts since certain animals seem to seek out substances to self-medicate.
The bottom line is, fish can indeed experience different types of altered states-of-mind depending on how they’re exposed to drugs. While nobody tries to intentionally harm fish, humans need to approach nature cautiously and limit their impact accordingly. There needs to be more awareness of our environmental footprint when it comes to disposing hazardous wastes, chemicals, as they can often go unnoticed and have severe impacts on our wildlife.
Are There Any Benefits to Fish Getting High?
Possible Medical Advantages
Fish getting high may have some possible medical benefits. Cannabinoids, the active compounds in marijuana and hemp plants, has been known to reduce inflammation in humans as well as animals. Scientists believe that fish may also benefit from this anti-inflammatory effect.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Giacomo Zaccone of Palermo University in Italy, exposing zebrafish embryos to THC resulted in reduced oxidative stress, which is responsible for causing diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS. This indicates that cannabinoids can help reduce cellular damage caused by oxidation, giving us an insight into potential future medical treatments.
Improved Appetite and Growth
Studies suggest that feeding fish with cannabis-derived compounds could lead to better growth rates, improved appetites, and higher reproductive success. Researchers tested the effect of feeding tilapia fish with different levels of purified cannabinoids (CBD and THC) and found out that those fed with THC had “significantly better” growth rates.
It is also believed that feeding carps or catfish extracts from industrial hemp plants can increase their appetite and promote weight gain. Some farmers use cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants, in fish feed to induce hunger without making them too sluggish.
Reduced Stress Levels
Just like humans, fish can experience stress as well. Pollution, overcrowding, noise, temperature fluctuations, and bacterial infections are just some external factors that cause stress among fishes. Studies show that even trout can become stressed due to changes in lighting conditions!
Cannabinoids are known for their ability to reduce anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders in humans. Therefore, it is not surprising that they can also help fish cope with stress.
Researchers at the University of Alberta tested the effects of exposing rainbow trout to different levels of cannabis dissolved in water. The results showed that those exposed to higher levels were less likely to get agitated when introduced to a simulated predator attack environment compared to those who were not exposed to the compound.
Enhanced Immune System
Fishes are susceptible to diseases, and their immune systems may weaken due to various reasons like aging, pollution, overcrowding, or insufficient nutrients. Scientists suggest that feeding them diets enriched with cannabinoid extracts could boost their immune system and improve disease resistance.
A study conducted by antibiotics researcher Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGille University found that zebrafish treated with low doses of THC had better survival rates and greater resistance to Vibrio cholerae, a bacterium responsible for causing cholera epidemics. This discovery opens up potential future applications of cannabinoids in creating new antimicrobial treatments or as an alternative means of controlling bacterial infections in fishes without using antibiotics.
“The endocannabinoids system appears present throughout the animal kingdom suggesting its biological importance in ancient life forms. This probably reflects the conservation of basic molecular mechanisms whereby endocannabinoids modulate key functional domains regulating synaptic plasticity, energy balance, and feeding.” -Vincenzo Di Marzo, Researcher at National Council of Research, Italy
What Are the Dangers of Fish Getting High?
Toxicity and Overdose
In recent years, there has been an increasing trend in recreational drug use among millennials and younger generations. Unfortunately, some individuals have now started to experiment with giving drugs to fish as well.
Fish are not accustomed to any drug use and can suffer from severe toxicity and overdose symptoms if exposed. Marijuana, for example, can cause issues such as difficulty breathing, muscle spasms, loss of control over bodily movements, lethargy, and even death in larger doses. Ingesting other recreational drugs such as cocaine or MDMA can long-term damage their organs, respiratory systems, and nervous systems.
Additionally, the dosage given to fish is usually much smaller than what humans consume, as they have significantly less body mass. Therefore, it’s effortless to go overboard with dosages, which can lead to fatal outcomes for these creatures.
Increased Aggression and Predatory Behavior
The consequences of getting high impact human behavior differently. For example, THC, a cannabis compound, is known to calm anxiety levels and increase sociability. In contrast, for some animals, these effects can trigger paranoia and aggression, leading to unpredictable behavior.
This unpredictable animal behaviour translates to predatory fishes too, who might become violent towards their mates and start eating one another after being administered drugs. This violence undermines the delicate marine ecosystem balance by removing necessary predator-prey relationships. Over time, continued use of such substances can consequently decimate entire species within aquatic environments.
“Fish feel pain very acutely; having said that, no research has shown that activity-inducing marijuana causes them harm… But still morally and ethically wrong.” -Dr. Lara Croft, veterinarian at South Finistère, France
It’s evident from most expert opinions that giving drugs to fish is not only dangerous and harmful to the marine animals themselves but can also prove detrimental to their environment. Recreationally drugging aquarium species damages both physical and biochemical functions and can have fatal results.
Fish already face battles with pollution-filled waters, overfishing practices, climate change-induced temperature variations of their habitats – these are enough problems for them without humans adding recreational drug-use to the mix. So let’s stick to enjoying our “me” time without hurting the lives of innocent creatures in the process.
Can Fish Die from Getting High?
Drug use is not only prevalent among humans, but also in other animals like dogs, horses, and even fish. Studies show that some fish species can get addicted to drugs as well, following similar patterns of behavior exhibited by drug-addled humans.
Lethal Consequences of Drug Exposure
Fish are sensitive creatures, and prolonged exposure to drugs or toxins can lead to their deaths. These chemicals affect the fish’s nervous system, which directly affects organ function, breathing, and blood circulation. A study conducted on rainbow trout showed that when exposed to cocaine concentrations found in surface waters, they die within 96 hours. Another study found that zebrafish displayed erratic swimming behaviors after being exposed to doses of cannabis oil, resulting in several of them drowning.
“Fish are physiologically less equipped than mammals to handle psychoactive substances,” says Dr. Marian Wong, a marine biologist at HKU School of Biological Sciences.
The above statement reinforces the fact that exposing fish to drugs can be extremely dangerous to their health and can cause death in severe cases.
Long-Term Health Effects
In addition to immediate lethality, long-term drug abuse may result in devastating effects on the fish community. Continuous exposure to drugs leads to changes in fish brain mechanisms, making it difficult for them to adapt to their natural environment, including feeding habits, reproductive activities, migration routes, and predator-prey relationships.
A few studies have evaluated how continuous drug exposure could impact fish mating behavior. An article in Nature Communications journal discussed how low-dose ketamine exposure impacted shoaling (grouping) behavior in guppies, leading to males electing larger groups and smaller group size variability than non-exposed control male fish. The authors also suggest that such behavior could affect the social structure of populations, leading to unexpected demographic changes in affected habitats.
When consumers use drugs or do not dispose of them properly, it ends up in environmental water sources through their body fluids and sewage systems. While most studies focus on freshwater environments since they are closer to human habitation, researchers also discovered the presence of drugs in salt-water species like cod, mussels, and others.
“There is a misconception that once drugs reach an aquatic system, they disappear magically because we cannot see them anymore,” says Dr. Emma Rosi, an aquatic ecologist with Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
The statement indicates how important it is to handle disposed of drugs as hazardous wastes, just like other industrial by-products. Any chemicals introduced into the environment have potential health effects on humans, animals, and plants living around those waters and beyond, highlighting why drug consumption affects everything from microscopic organisms to apex predators (e.g., sharks).
Can fish get high? Yes, their neurobiological mechanisms make them susceptible to psychoactive substances that alter their physiological and behavioral traits. Nonetheless, one should be aware of the impact of using drugs irresponsibly and its wider economic and ecological impact on individuals and communities beyond the consumer. It’s high time we all become responsible for our own actions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can fish get high on drugs?
Yes, fish can get high on drugs like THC, cocaine, and opioids. The drugs affect the fish’s behavior, making them lethargic, disoriented, and less responsive to their environment. Fish can also experience changes in their heart rate, respiration, and metabolism when exposed to drugs. However, the dosage and potency of the drug may vary depending on the species of fish and their size.
What happens if a fish accidentally consumes THC?
If a fish accidentally consumes THC, it can cause various effects, such as disorientation, lethargy, and changes in their behavior. THC can also affect their heart rate, respiration, and metabolism, which can be harmful in some cases. However, the effects of THC may vary depending on the dosage, potency, and species of fish. It is essential to keep drugs and other harmful substances away from fish to prevent accidental consumption.
Is it ethical to intentionally give fish drugs for research purposes?
Intentionally giving fish drugs for research purposes is a controversial topic. While some argue that it is necessary to understand the effects of drugs on fish, others believe that it is unethical to expose them to harmful substances. Researchers must follow ethical guidelines and obtain proper permission before conducting any experiments on fish.
Can fish become addicted to drugs like humans do?
Yes, fish can become addicted to drugs like humans do. Studies have shown that fish exposed to drugs like opioids and cocaine can become dependent on them and experience withdrawal symptoms when the drug is no longer available. The addiction and withdrawal symptoms may vary depending on the species of fish and the type of drug. It is essential to prevent drug exposure to fish to avoid addiction and other harmful effects.
How do drugs affect the behavior of fish in their natural habitat?
Drugs can affect the behavior of fish in their natural habitat, making them more vulnerable to predators and less responsive to their environment. The drugs can also affect their ability to reproduce and interact with other fish. The effects of drugs on fish behavior may vary depending on the species, dosage, and potency of the drug. It is crucial to prevent drug exposure to fish to maintain their natural behavior and ecological balance.