Exposition Academia Brno 2022

Exposition in bookstore Academia

Exposition in the showcase of bookstore Academia

Psychopharmaceuticals in the environment – alarming or negligible?


Drugs? In nature? How can they get there?!

Swallowing the pill is the beginning of drug’s journey. The active substance is absorbed in the body and does its action. After finishing its job, it is released out of the body in decomposed or native form and its journey continues via sewerage into wastewater treatment plant. Big portion of active substance from drugs is finally degraded there by means of modern technologies, but some compounds are undegradable even for bacteria in activated sludge. And these drugs then continue into the environment.


What are psychopharmaceuticals?

Psychopharmaceuticals are drugs influencing the human psyche. They impact the state of mind, feeling the emotions, they can help in critical and hard situations, in which our body is not able to cope with itself. Most often we talk about antidepressants – drugs regulating the level of neurotransmitters in the brain. These drugs are taken regularly and repeatedly, because their effect begins gradually. Another group are anxiolytics (antianxiety agens) – drugs, which help quickly, effectively and in short-term to cope with critical situations, but they are not suitable for long-term therapy because of inducing the addiction. Very similar is the function of hypnotics – drugs supporting the sleep. Even this group is risky because of possible addiction.

Many aquatic organisms (including plants) react on these agens, it is not surprising to observe some effects even in the nature.


Scientists have found that:

  • Mixture of psychoactive compounds in rivers can alter some genes in freshwater fish (Oggier et al. 2010) (Subedi et al. 2021);
  • Psychopharmaceuticals in rivers affect the motoric activity of crayfish (Kubec et al. 2019);
  • Crayfish are impacted even by sertraline (antidepressants), they are subdued and thus more vulnerable from predators (Buric et al. 2018);
  • Antidepressant fluoxetine can affect the behaviour of starlings – they changed their feeding behaviour, they overate and because of higher weight they were not atractive for potential partners (Bean et al. 2014);
  • The world-wide concentrations of benzodiazepins in surface water reach hundreds nanograms per litre, in Czech Republic tens nanograms per litre, and in case of antidepressants the values are similar (Fick et al. 2017);
  • Many plants can degrade benzodiazepins similarly as human. But the degradation produced another biologically active compounds (Carter et al. 2018);
  • Vegetable watered by contaminated water from river can accumulate benzodiazepiny, but such amounts are negligible for human (Wu et al. 2013);
  • Willows planted along the river absorb drugs from water and degrade them in their wood (Franks et al. 2019).


Well, the nature is able to cope with it itself, isn’t it?

Partly yes, but only with limited amount. Because we release the drugs into the environment continuously, it is necessary to help the nature. Our scientists search for ways, how to increase the efficiency of waste water processing together with keeping the principles of environmentally-friendly and economically-responsible technology.


And what can I do for it?

Everyone can contribute to improve the situation. We can:

  • Limit the input of drugs into the environment via proper handling with unused/unusable drugs by returning them back to drugstores or pharmacies;
  • Keep attention to the prevention of psychic diseases by maintaining a suitable psychic hygiene;
  • Minimize the usage of hypnotics and anxiolytics, avoid using the psychoactive substances for recreational purposses.


Are you interested in and want to know more? You can visit the open lecture of our colleagues in “Literární kavárna” café in the bookstore Academia.

When: February 16th, 2022, at 17:00, entrance free of charge

Topic: Drugs in the environment (lecture will be held in Czech)

Who: Mgr. Adéla Lamaczová, Ing. Petra Přibilová, Institute of Botany CAS

How can drugs or products of their decomposition get into the environment, e.g. into water? What is their jurney from swalloving to surface water? How we analyse these compounds, and how we can eliminate them? This all will be discussed in the lecture about drugs in the environment.



BEAN, T. G., A. B. A. BOXALL, J. LANE, K. A. HERBORN, et al. Behavioural and physiological responses of birds to environmentally relevant concentrations of an antidepressant. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences, Nov 2014, 369(1656), 9.

BURIC, M., K. GRABICOVA, J. KUBEC, A. KOUBA, et al. Environmentally relevant concentrations of tramadol and citalopram alter behaviour of an aquatic invertebrate. Aquatic Toxicology, Jul 2018, 200, 226-232.

CARTER, L. J., M. WILLIAMS, S. MARTIN, S. P. B. KAMALUDEEN, et al. Sorption, plant uptake and metabolism of benzodiazepines. Science of the Total Environment, Jul 2018, 628-629, 18-25.

FICK, J., T. BRODIN, M. HEYNEN, J. KLAMINDER, et al. Screening of benzodiazepines in thirty European rivers. Chemosphere, Jun 2017, 176, 324-332.

KUBEC, J., M. S. HOSSAIN, K. GRABICOVA, T. RANDAK, et al. Oxazepam Alters the Behavior of Crayfish at Diluted Concentrations, Venlafaxine Does Not. Water, Feb 2019, 11(2).

OGGIER, D. M., C. I. WEISBROD, A. M. STOLLER, A. K. ZENKER, et al. Effects of Diazepam on Gene Expression and Link to Physiological Effects in Different Life Stages in Zebrafish Danio rerio. Environmental Science & Technology, Oct 2010, 44(19), 7685-7691.

SUBEDI, B., S. ANDERSON, T. L. CROFT, E. C. ROUCHKA, et al. Gene alteration in zebrafish exposed to a mixture of substances of abuse*. Environmental Pollution, Jun 2021, 278, 11.

WU, X. Q., F. ERNST, J. L. CONKLE AND J. GAN Comparative uptake and translocation of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) by common vegetables. Environment International, Oct 2013, 60, 15-22.