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We’re All On Prozac Now

April 20th, 2010

By Gary G. Kohls, MD

It isn’t just Teflon and ScotchGard that are in our bodies. BigPharma’s drugs are turning up in the drinking water supply - and in the fish.

For over a decade now environmental toxicologists have been doing chemical analyses on the water of lakes, streams and acquifers that are the sources of public drinking water, especially the waters that are downstream from wastewater treatment facilities. The results have been alarming.

The tests have consistently found measurable levels of prescription drugs, including arthritis drugs, contraceptives, psychostimulants, tranquilizers and antidepressants like Prozac, as well as cosmetics and synthetic food additives like dyes and preservatives that are excreted down the drain through the pill-popping publc’s kidneys.

It is a sad fact that standard municipal water treatment plants are incapable of filtering out small molecules like psychotropic drugs that have been designed by chemists in the pharmaceutical industry to readily pass into the brain across the blood-brain barrier, a barrier that normally is able to prevent large molecules, bacteria, viruses, proteins and most toxins from getting into the brain or into the fluid that bathes the brain.

We have known for years that Beluga whales in the Arctic Ocean have measurable levels of ScotchGard in their blood streams and that most Americans have measurable levels of Teflon and other such fluoridated compounds in their blood. We know the stories of Love Canal, Agent Orange and DDT, among thousands of other tragic stories of industrial chemical contamination of human bodies.

We know that psychotropic drugs can cross the placental barrier into the fetal circulaton. And, most soberingly, we now know that umbilical cord blood contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, many of which are known to be carcinogens. The ubiquitous effluent from our industrialized society is poisoning bodies of pregnant women and thus is contaminating the previously sacrosanct blood of fetuses and innocent newborn babies. And we wonder why there is an epidemic of congenital abnormalities and so-called “mental illnesses” and attention and other behavioral abnormalities among children. These illnesses are neurological poisonings and not mental illnesses of “unknown origin”.

Fouling the Nest (and the body)

How do such chemicals enter public water supplies? Mostly through human urination and defecation although flushing unused pills down the toilet or tossing them into landfills tha tare upstream from acquifers or streams is also a significant source of water contamination.

When humans defecate, urinate, sweat or bathe their organ systems are simultaneously getting rid of toxic substances. Ingested material first goes into the intestinal tract which attempts, through extensive enzymes systems, to break down the large molecule foodstuffs into smaller, more efficiently absorbed molecules of essential nutrients such as amino acids, simple sugars and fatty acids, along with essential minerals and vitamins. These digested molecules mainly pass directly into the blood stream (the “enterohepatic circulation”) that flows directly into the liver, which, among other functions, attempts to metabolize, detoxify and excrete poisonous substances into the biliary system (back into the intestines, however) - although many of the metabolized substances go into the blood stream and thus to the rest of the body. Many of the partially detoxified drugs are still pharmacologically active and may still be toxic.

In our highly poisoned planet, with the tens of thousands of synthetic chemicals virtually everywhere (and almost none of them have been tested for safety), the liver’s detoxifiying capacity can be easily overwhelmed which probably explains why we Americans are among the sickest – if not the sickest – group of people in the developed world.

This situation is especially problematic in people who take a lot of drugs, frequently get vaccinated with the highly toxic metals aluminum and mercury (plus a variety of toxic adjuvants in the shots), eat a lot of long shelf-life junk foods that are laden with preservatives, drink a lot of nutritionally deficient soda pop that has synthetic sweeteners in or are simply living and breathing downwind from polluting smokestacks or living downstream from corporate facilities that are polluting the water.

Brain- and Body-Altering Drugs in the Water

Male alligators in Florida are developing micropenises - and probably infertility - from the estrogen mimicking pollutants in the water of the Everglades.

The famous mutant (and disappearing) frogs here in Minnesota were being turned into sterile hermaphrodites by the estrogen mimic, Atrazine, which is ubiquitous in the runoff water from the farming industry. It should come as no surprise that Atrazine has been found in the majority of drinking water supplies in the farming regions in southern Minnesota.

This is Your Fish on Prozac

Environmental toxicologists from Texas have found high levels of Prozac in the brains, livers and muscle tissue of bluegills, channel catfish, and black crappies from a stream in a Dallas suburb that receives effluent from the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Prozac (fluoxetine) and the liver-metabolized form of the drug, norfluoxetine (which is as pharmacologically active as the Prozac itself!) were found in alarming concentrations in every tissue sample examined in the fish. The scientists suspect that there have been behavioral alterations in the fish and are planning on more studies.

Incidentally, Prozac works by artificially - and very potently - “goosing” serotonin nerve transmission at the level of the serotonin synapses in brain cells (as well as other cells, especially intestinal cells). Prozac affects other non-serotonin neurotransmitter systems in other parts of the body as well and is therefore NOT “selective” for serotonin, despite it’s class name, SSRI – selective serotonin reuptake pump inhibitor). Serotonin, incidentally, is the most important anti-depressant neurotransmitter in the brain and is known to elevate mood, enhance impulse control, enhance sleep quality, relieve anxiety and produce satiety. However, it also has major effects on other organ systems such as the intestinal tract, platelets and the heart.

SSRI drugs like Prozac artificially prevent serotonin nerves (as well as dopamine and norepinephrine nerves) from reabsorbing, recycling, reusing and therefore storing serotonin for future use (and this affects dopamine and norepinephrine recycling as well), thus providing a temporary increase in the level, and activity, of the neurotransmitter in the synapse. However, the action of these drugs is ultimately serotonin-depleting because of the “reputake inhibition” action.

The Texas toxicologists emphasize that fish aren’t supposed to have Prozac in their tissues. Everybody can agree that drinking water supplies aren’t supposed to have Prozac, Atrazine, cosmetics, fluoride or estrogen mimics in them either. They are all considered potentially lethal hazardous wastes.

And we can all agree that it is not normal for humans, much less innocent animals, to have Prozac in their bodies either, whether they are pre-born fetuses, newborn babies, children, adults or crappies. But it isn’t Prozac alone that we should be concerned about when we are trying to stave off dehydration. Prozac is just emblematic of a much larger problem: huge numbers of sublethal industrial chemicals in a toxic mixture the consequences of which nobody knows.

Since the costs of high-tech filtering systems are out of the reach of every financially-strapped municipality in this nation, the only solution for the problem of brain- and body-altering drugs in the water is by prevention, however that must come about.


Dr. Kohls is a physician who practiced holistic, non-drug, mental health care until his retirement in 2008. He writes, lectures and facilitates seminars on such topics.

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