Did you know flushing any unused prescription medication down the toilet or drain can affect fish and other aquatic species in the environment. When you think about it four out of five people leave a doctors office with some sort of prescription, one can only imagine how much of that medication is potentially being improperly disposed of.

What Happens When It Is Flushed Or Goes Down The Drain?

When medications are flushed down the toilet or drain, they enter the wastewater treatment system which then cleans the water. Unfortunately many of these treatment systems are not designed to remove the medications which then enter our streams, rivers and lakes where the fish live.

What Effects Does It Have On Fish?

Studies have shown that fish that swim in waters that have been tainted by anti-anxiety medication become hyper, aggressive, anti social, and some even get the munchies. This may sound funny to many people but it has a huge effect on the fish population.

What Happens When Fish Become Hyper?

Fish that have been exposed to medication become hyper, studies have shown that they become twice as active as to what a normal fish would be like. This is almost like that of a human with ADHD.

What Happens When Fish Become Anti Social?

When a fish becomes anti social it may venture off on its own leaving its school to be by itself. The smaller fish now become easy targets for bigger fish because they have ventured off alone into unfamiliar places without the protection of its school.

What Happens When Fish Feed More (Get The Munchies)?

For example if a Perch starts aggressively feeding on zooplankton this can reduce the numbers of these little creatures. Zooplankton feed on algae so a drop in their numbers could allow algae to grow that can then choke other marine life. When algae is higher in numbers it can cause damage to the fishes gills as well as kill fish by lowering the oxygen levels. This can also cause increased algae blooms which can reduce the ability of fish and marine life to find food and can even cause entire fish populations to leave the area or again even die.

Because Perch and other predator fish play a key role in food webs, altering their food intake as well as behaviour (eating more prey) can upset the ecosystems balance. Those fish that are engaging in more risky behaviour like checking out areas in the water they normally shy away from, could definitely lower the species survival rate.

Where can you safely dispose medication?

In Canada you can return your unused or expired medications to any pharmacy any day of the year. Many countries have permanent drop boxes at sheriff and police facilities where you can deposit any medication you wish to dispose of including over the counter and pet medication.  They in turn send these expired or partially used prescriptions off to be incinerated, these medications do not go into landfills.

Some Other Interesting Facts:

* Male fish can take on female characteristics.

* A study in 2009 found that small amounts of antidepressants in the water made Flathead Minnows more vulnerable to predators.

* Studies have shown that fish exposed to Oxazepam became braver and less social. Meaning these brave little fish left their schools to look for food on their own. This is very risky behaviour since being in a school is key defence against being eaten by a predator.

* In many places around the world traces of over the counter painkillers, birth control, and illegal drugs have all been detected in water ways. So you can only imagine what effect this cocktail of different pharmaceutical products can do to a fish.

*There is no need for humans to be concerned about the medications/ drugs getting into our bodies. We would need to consume 4 tons of Perch to consume the equivalent of just one single pill.


In conclusion it may seem easy and convenient to just flush your medication away and most likely it is the first choice that comes to mind for most of us. Instead take it to your local pharmacy so they can dispose of it properly or a drop box mentioned above and only flush medications when it specifically says to do so on the bottle. We want to let our fish grow and not be harmed in anyway. I hope this article gives you some information that you may or may not have known, remember harm to the fish starts with us and ends with us. Lets work together to safely dispose of any medication to give fish and other aquatic species the best chance of survival they can possibly get!

Don't Flush Your Meds

From Pills To Gills

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