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Prozac in the water, Viagra in the air - (11/13/2018)

By Dr. Ron Gasbarro

Forget Paris, the city of love. Spurn romantic Rome. Snub lusty London. Because the real affair to remember might be found in Ireland’s County Cork. Ringaskiddy, population 580, is a curious hamlet that has been the site for manufacturing most of the planet’s Viagra for the last 2 decades. Locals say fumes from the Viagra factory has had a sizeable impact on the townspeople’s libido. “One whiff and you’re stiff,” chuckles barmaid Debbie O’Grady. The US corporation Pfizer denies its plant is causing the airborne love potions: “It’s made under the strictest supervision of the US Food and Drug Administration and the Irish Environmental Protection Agency. There can’t be any kind of emissions,” claims a spokesperson for the pharmaceutical giant.

That has not stopped locals and even tourists from standing outside the factory and breathing deeply. In fact, in 2015, Ireland had the highest birth rate in the European Union. Coincidence? Barmaid O’Grady’s mother backs up her daughter’s claims saying that living in the town has been a blessing for men “with problems in that department” and that she has never been lonely for the 20 years since her husband passed away. Another local, a psychiatric nurse named Fiona Toomey, concurred, saying she had just returned to the village for the first time in 5 years, only to notice that not just men, but also dogs, “walk around in a state of sexual excitement.” “They’re grinding the tablets and the wind is coming from that direction. So there’s bound to be a certain amount in the air all the time,” was the theory of local Charles Allen. Whatever the cause of the town’s incessant tumescence, never let the truth in the way of a great story.

But it is worth asking the question: If there are drugs wafting through the heavens, then are there not prescription meds in the water we drink? Prozac, the antidepressant so popular starting in the 1980s, was touted as a global happy pill, from magazine covers to late-night comedy monologues. Though depression is still the only condition for which the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) is currently licensed in the US, prescribers have directed it at such socially topical concerns as gambling, obesity, premenstrual syndrome, battle fatigue, and the fear of public speaking. Given its success – as well as the success of a dozen of its descendants – having it in the water supply might brighten things up and get our minds off nuclear war and authoritarianism. In fact, a 2004 British report revealed that there is Prozac running through their rivers and streams and, because of the drug’s omnipresence, the drug is likely in American waters from sea to shining sea. However, if there are antidepressants in our drinking water, they are not having much effect. According to the World Health Organization, cases of depressive illness have increased by nearly 20% between 2005 and 2015.

Turns out, there are many medications as well as other chemicals in our water supply. A study conducted by the US Geological Survey in 1999 and 2000 found measurable amounts of one or more medications in 80% of the water samples drawn from a network of 139 streams in 30 states. The drugs identified included a fearsome mixture of antibiotics, antidepressants, blood thinners, heart medications, hormones, and painkillers. Scary as it sounds, the amounts are nanoscopic. Still, it behooves us not to flush our unused medications down the toilet. Instead, physically destroy them, mix them with coffee grounds, cat litter, and some water in a plastic bag, and place in the trash so that pets, children, and drug seekers cannot get at them. This way, they will stay out of the water and the air we breathe. 

Ron Gasbarro, PharmD, is a registered pharmacist, medical writer, and principal at Rx-Press.com. Read more at www.rx-press.com


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