Seattle-Area Salmon Are Coked Up and Full of Antidepressants


Wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest and investment bankers on Wall Street have a lot more in common than you'd ever expect: they're both cold-blooded; they're both soulless; and apparently, they're both pumped full of cocaine and antidepressants -- except the fish didn't choose their lifestyles.

According to a report by the Seattle Times, researchers have found an "alphabet soup of drugs" in tissue samples of young chinook salmon and tainted waters surrounding Puget Sound, which included more drugs than Keith Richards' carry-on during the Sticky Fingers era: Aleve, caffeine, Darvon, Flonase, nicotine, OxyContin, Paxil, Tagamet, Tylenol, Valium, and Zoloft. And that's not even counting other chemicals like antibiotics, DEET, and female reproductive hormone.

The full results were published in the scientific journal ​Environmental Pollution, which explains in its abstract that researchers found "81 analytes in effluent, 25 analytes in estuary water, and 42 analytes in fish tissue." That's all to say: the waste waters had lots of pollutants, small bodies of water less, and juvenile salmon a mid-range. 

Now, to be clear, scientists doubt the chemical buildups would affect humans, as people don't eat young, migrating chinook or sculpin (another small fish), and area drinking water comes from the Cascades -- pretty much as crisp and clean as you can get. That doesn't mean everyone should dismiss the chemically altered sea life, however.

“You have to wonder what it is doing to the fish,” Jim Meador, an environmental toxicologist told the paper. 

In fact, fish migrating in estuaries of Puget Sound "die at twice the rate of fish elsewhere" and nobody knows how being hopped up on the entire contents of a medicine cabinet will affect the fish's ability to reproduce, migrate, and stave off disease. Additionally, no tests were done on organisms higher and lower in the food chain, so the broad impact has not been measured.

Suffice it to say: don't go swimming in estuaries near Puget Sound. Especially if you're a juvenile chinook salmon.

But if that's the case: holy shit! Those drugs enabled you to use a computer and read English!

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Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. He prefers his salmon to come in a can. Just kidding. That shit's gross. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.