Shrimp Fail Drug Test For Cocaine, Ketamine, Xanax, And Valium

by : Lucy Connolly on : 04 May 2019 16:17
Drugs found in shrimpsPixabay/Wikimedia

A number of shrimp tested for illegal substances were found to have traces of cocaine, ketamine, and Xanax in their systems.

Well, I’ll be honest with you, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d be saying. The freshwater shrimp were tested in their habitat in Suffolk, England, while researchers investigated the exposure of wildlife to different micro-pollutants.


To the surprise of researchers, at least 67 different contaminants were found in the shrimps, with cocaine being the most frequently detected contaminant.


The research was explained in full in the Environment International journal, with scientists from King’s College London analysing the levels of micropollutants in surface water samples and freshwater shrimp from 15 different sites in Suffolk.

Although expecting some contamination, researchers were surprised to find trace levels of at least 67 different contaminant compounds in their sample. Not only that, but cocaine was detected in 100 per cent of the shrimp from all 15 sites.


The researchers also found other illicit drugs such as Valium, Tramadol and pharmaceuticals were widespread in the shrimp, as well as traces of numerous pesticides that are now banned by the EU.

Dr Leon Barron, from King’s College, said in a statement:

Such regular occurrence of illicit drugs in wildlife was surprising. We might expect to see these in urban areas such as London, but not in smaller and more rural catchments.

The presence of pesticides which have long been banned in the UK also poses a particular challenge as the sources of these remain unclear.


Although the consequences of these drugs on the shrimp is currently unclear, researchers are now carrying out further studies regarding the effects of the pharmaceuticals and other micropollutants on aquatic animals.

Professor Nic Bury, from the University of Suffolk, said:

Whether the presence of cocaine in aquatic animals is an issue for Suffolk, or more widespread an occurrence in the UK and abroad, awaits further research.

Environmental health has attracted much attention from the public due to challenges associated with climate change and microplastic pollution.

However, the impact of ‘invisible’ chemical pollution (such as drugs) on wildlife health needs more focus in the UK as policy can often be informed by studies such as these.

The lead author of the study, Dr Thomas Miller from King’s College, added that for most of the compounds, the potential for any effect on the shrimp is likely to be low.


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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Animals, Animal, Drugs, News, Pollution, UK News


Science Direct and 1 other
  1. Science Direct

    Biomonitoring of pesticides, pharmaceuticals and illicit drugs in a freshwater invertebrate to estimate toxic or effect pressure

  2. King's College London

    New study finds river wildlife contain cocaine, pharmaceuticals and pesticides