Recently it was discovered that researchers were giving European eels a daily dose of cocaine for 50 days straight to measure the effects of it on the animal’s skeletal muscle.

No, they weren’t trying to relive the glory of Studio 54’s heyday … I never thought I’d say this … they gave them cocaine to save their lives.

More accurately, the longevity of their species.

See, cocaine has been seeping into the groundwater via humans for quite some time. Other species have this problem too, all over the world. In 2016, it was found that salmon were getting crunk off of cocaine and oxycodone. And recently, trace levels of opioids were found around the same area affecting mussels.  

Findings published in Science of the Total Environment show the coked out eels were hyperactive, but showed the same general health as other groups not given the drug. However, eels exposed to cocaine had serious injury, muscle breakdown, and swelling to their skeletal muscle — damage that stuck around even after 10 days following the trial.

Ok … but why does it matter? Exactly?

Concentrations of cocaine enter the surface water of aquatic habitats (i.e. endangered eels) via wastewater, and even low amounts of cocaine can cause severe damage, as proven, to the animals living in those environments.

National Geographic called out that not only are wild European eels (those not farmed for food) considered “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, eels exposed to cocaine could have even more difficulty making the 3,700-mile pilgrimage to mate and reproduce, apart from roadblocks like man-made dams, diminishing the already highly endangered population.

The study proved that even trace amounts equaling a breakfast nosh for Kate Moss (there are no scientific figures around this) were harmful to these eels, with the most vulnerable ones being the youngest.

Illegal drugs like cocaine are a major contributor to water pollution and could play a role in killing off the wild eel population. Now, I think we can all agree eels are creepy, but they don’t deserve to be secretly pumped with cocaine. Imagine every time you went to Starbucks the barista snuck a line or two of blow into your iced coffee. Wonderful, sure, but eradication of an entire species for Friday night fun? Bummer.

[cover photo Jeffrey N. Jeffords]