With an overwhelming demand for pharmaceuticals in the United States, there is no question that the ubiquity of such drugs has dramatic mood-altering effects. Many of the compounds present in Prozac, for example, do not decompose fully after leaving the human body. Traces have been found in sewage and groundwater, which is often consumed by local wildlife.

In a study involving bird species starlings, Kate Arnold, a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the environment department at the University of York, decided to test the effects of fluoxetine, the main compound in Prozac. Previous studies have shown that starlings grow more slowly and exhibit weaker immune response when given 17α-ethinylestradiol, an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in birth control pills.

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To test the effects of Prozac, a group of wild starlings were given wax worms filled with fluoxetine while a control group was given a placebo.

The treatment group of birds was found to be more likely to snack throughout the day, a complete disruption of the natural foraging patterns. The control group ate a hearty breakfast and dinner and grabbed what they could throughout the day to stay afloat, which falls within the normal foraging habits.

Potential dangers of birds' exposure to these chemicals include an unhealthy weight, which prevents them from being able to travel or protect themselves. Longer term consequences could include disruptions in local ecosystems due to changes in dietary patterns.

Cover image: Wikimedia Commons