Scientists were left shocked when traces of illegal party drugs were found in freshwater shrimp swimming in Britain’s countryside rivers, the Mail online reports.
Drugs such as cocaine and ketamine were discovered by a team investigating 15 sites at five rivers around Suffolk to see what chemicals were in the water.
The authors said ‘surprisingly’ they found cocaine in every single sample – while the party drug ketamine and other pharmaceuticals were also found in the shrimp.
Kings College Scientists working with the University of Suffolk collected water samples at the rivers across the rural county.
Dr Leon Barron from King’s College London added: ‘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.’
In all 56, different substances were detected – and the drug of abuse, cocaine, was the most commonly found along with lidocaine.
Lidocaine has legal uses as a local anaesthetic in dentistry, but is also often used illicitly to ‘cut’ cocaine, as it produces numbness in the gums like cocaine, tricking users into thinking they are getting cocaine which has a similar effect.
Lead author, Dr Thomas Miller from King’s College London said: ‘Although concentrations were low, we were able to identify compounds that might be of concern to the environment and crucially, which might pose a risk to wildlife.
Dr Miller added: ‘As part of our ongoing work, we found that the most frequently detected compounds were illicit drugs, including cocaine and ketamine and a banned pesticide, fenuron.’
The authors tested sites at the rivers Deven, Alde, Stour, Waveney and Gipping.