Opioid addiction in America has been proclaimed a crisis, and some scientists got the bright idea of testing mussels for oxycodone. The results were illuminating and kind of fucked up.
On Thursday, CBS News reported the results of a study carried out by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which was testing mussels off the coast of Seattle for various toxins as a barometer of local water pollution. In three of 18 locations tested, the mussels turned up positive for trace amounts of oxycodone.
Oxycodone can get into the mussels system when trace amounts of drugs excreted by humans end up in wastewater, then manage not to get filtered out before being plunged into the ocean. The mussels also tested positive for Melphalan, a common chemotherapy drug, and for antidepressants.
A biologist at the WDFW, named Jennifer Lanksbury, told CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO, “What we eat and what we excrete goes into the Puget Sound. It’s telling me there’s a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area.”
Scientists don’t think mussels are affected by oxycodone, since they can’t metabolize it, however a recent study out of the University of Utah found that zebrafish sometimes dose themselves with opioids on purpose, indicating a zeal for the drug.