Are There Traces of Drugs in Your Mussels?

I recently read something very disturbing. It was passed on by a friend who wanted my opinion. We all know we can get a bad shellfish and end up in the bathroom for 24 hours, but can you develop an opioid addiction or will your hair fall out from eating bad shellfish?

Mussels in the Puget Sound, off the northwest coast of Washington, were tested for traces of various substances and chemicals, and what they found will probably disgust you:

  • oxycodone
  • 1 chemotherapy agent
  • 7 types of antibiotics
  • 5 kinds of antidepressants
  • a diabetic drug
  • four types of chemicals found in cleaning supplies

To read the CNN article, click here.

Why mussels? Unlike many fish, mussels don’t have the biology to metabolize these substances, making them great for testing the cleanliness of the water and the food we get from it.

How does this happen? We take drugs. We pee out drugs. The pee goes through the sewer and through wastewater treatment, and goes into our waterways.

Does it matter? The amount of these substances in the mussels are miniscule, for example you would have to eat 150 mussels to even get a small, inconsequential dose of any of these medications. It matters to me more from an, “Ewwww. Gross,” standpoint. It also speaks to the ever important need for moderation. So much of what we put in our mouth is bad for us in large quantities. Enjoying shellfish now and again is not going to make you sick, nor will it medicate you, but anything in excess is probably a bad idea. Keep your diet varied and interesting, and you can write off some of the histrionic dangers we read about in the papers.


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness Coach. She helps clients with parenting issues, the challenges of college and young adulthood and issues related to health and habits. Email her at to learn more. She is the author of the Audible Original, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents.


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