Some Rivers Are So Drug-Polluted, Their Eels Get High on Cocaine

Joshua Rapp Learn, reporting for National Geographic: Critically endangered eels hyped up on cocaine could have trouble making a 3,700-mile trip to mate and reproduce — new research warns. And while societies have long grappled with ways to cope with the use of illicit drugs, less understood are the downstream effects these drugs might have on other species after they enter the aquatic environment through wastewater. So, in the name of research, scientists pushed cocaine on European eels in labs for 50 days in a row, in an effort to monitor the effects of the experience on the fish. European eels have complex life patterns, spending 15 to 20 years in fresh or brackish water in European waterways before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to spawn in the Sargasso Sea just east of the Caribbean and the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. While the eels are also farmed for food, the wild population is considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to dams and other waterway changes that block their migrations, overfishing, and different types of water pollution. The eels are vulnerable to trace concentrations of cocaine, particularly in their early lives, according to the researchers of a study published in Science of the Total Environment.

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