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Opioid abuse in Seattle is so widespread that mussels are testing positive for oxycodone

May 30, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Opioid abuse in Seattle is so widespread that  mussels are testing positive for oxycodone Photo: DEA

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Opioid abuse in Seattle is so widespread that mussels are testing positive for oxycodone

Opioid abuse in the Pacific Northwest is so widespread that researchers have detected trace amounts of narcotics in the systems of sea creatures.

While watching pollution levels in the waters of Puget Sound, scientists revealed that trace amounts of oxycodone were recently found in the systems of “native bay mussels from Seattle and Bremerton area harbors.”

Oxycodone is a potent narcotic used to help severe pain and is highly addictive, possessing many of the same euphoric qualities as heroin and morphine.

The data was collected via the Puget Sound Mussel Monitoring Program, which brings uncontaminated mussels from nearby Whidbey Island to “urbanized” areas away from any commercial shellfish beds.

The program was carried out by researchers at the Puget Sound Institute, an offshoot of the University of Washington, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“Mussels, which are filter feeders, concentrate contaminants from the marine environment into their tissues,” Jeff Rice, the managing editor of the Puget Sound Institute, indicated in his recent findings to KIRO-7.

As human beings place biological waste into the surrounding environment, the mussels use the material as nutrition and sustenance.

Rice indicated that after two to three months at the transplant site, data revealed that oxycodone in the marine creatures “were thousands of times lower than a dose for humans.”

Although not sufficient to have an effect on the mussels, Rice added that the real issue was for fish in the area known to respond to opioids.

Scientists at the University of Utah have recently revealed that zebrafish will voluntarily dose themselves with opioids, and scientists think other types of fish like salmon may have a related response.

It is not uncommon to find pharmaceuticals or narcotics like cocaine in the systems of mussels, but Rice said this was the first time opioids have been detected in the freshwater creatures.

“It’s telling me there’s a lot of people taking oxycodone in the Puget Sound area,” Washington Fish and Wildlife biologist Jennifer Lanksbury told KIRO-7 News.

“Those are chemicals that are out there in the nearshore waters and they may be having an impact on the fish and shellfish there,” Lanksbury stated, noting: “What we eat and excrete goes into the Puget Sound.”

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