Sunday, February 17, 2013

Like fish in water

A NYT story reports that, according to a new study, " traces of a common psyciatric medication that winds up in rivers and streams may affect fish behavior and feeding patterns." The fish exposed to the anti-anxiety drug apparently "became less social, more active and ate faster." They also became visibly bolder - more willing to take risks and explore open areas. The researchers are concerned a bit about the possible effects of these behavioral changes on the fish's well-being and ecosystems. My first thought, however, wasn't of the fish - it was of the people who take similar medications at much higher therapeutic doses.

Initially, I was slightly worried about them, too. Then, however, it dawned on me that there was little reason to put a negative spin on the results of the fish study. After all, the altered behaviors the researchers observed seem very close to the behavioral modifications needed for success in the global, technologically-saturated marketplace. In fact, you may have stronger reasons to worry if you don’t take any similar medications because you pass for normal. You may then end up watching in disbelief as the medicated zoom by on their way to the social and financial stratosphere. In this case, or if you are ideologically opposed to performance-enhancing drugs, you can try “mindfulness,” which ostensibly can confer similar adaptive fitness on the initiated.