Psychotropics in the Drinking Water

Antipsychotics in the drinking water.
It’s gotten a fair amount of press, but everyone should know about this story, posted by the Associated Press the other day. It gives some indication of just how many of these psychotropic medications are being prescribed, and how little we know about the long-term health effects. In case you missed it, the story is that we are now finding trace elements of a whole range of medications in the drinking water and it is unknown what effects this may have on public health.

Long-term public health issues?
One interesting effect the article makes is that while the human body may shrug off an unintended dose of one of these medications it is less clear what the cumulative effects over years might be. And that these drugs are, after all, designed to alter the functioning of the human body. (Anticonvulsant medications have been linked with autism, for instance — of course in much larger doses on lab animals.)

The last parenthetical statement was a little loose. Valproic acid, contained in some anticonvulsants such as Depakote, has been associated with autism-like features in mice. The mice are exposed to the valproic acid while in the embryo. Depakote is what’s known as an anticonvulsant, or more recently, a “mood stabilizer” a term criticized elsewhere as being essentially meaningless. Whether mood stabilizer or anticonvulsant, they are prescribed for acute mania in bipolar disorder. They are also prescribed for epilepsy. Here’s a bit from Wikipedia on the valproic acid link:

Exposure of the human embryo to valproic acid is also associated with risk of autism, and it is possible to duplicate features characteristic of autism by exposing rat embryos to valproic acid at the time of neural tube closure.

The citation for that is: Arndt TL, Stodgell CJ, Rodier PM (2005). “The teratology of autism”. Int J Dev Neurosci 23 (2–3): 189–99. doi:10.1016/j.ijdevneu.2004.11.001. PMID 15749245

Kalea Chapman, Psy.D.


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Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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