PsychoPharmac’eau Psychopharmaceutical Prevention & Pilots to Reduce Effects in the water cycle


Over a million people in the Netherlands use psychopharmaca, like anti-depressants and anti-psychotics. After use residues enter surface waters via the sewage. Compared to other pharmaceuticals, for psychopharmaca very limited information is available on environmental risks, notwithstanding their relevance in terms of use. Designed to affect the nervous system, psychopharmaca are known to affect aquatic organisms at very low and environmentally relevant concentrations. They are expected to mimic so-called infochemicals, influence natural communication and cause effects on the behaviour of organisms. Thereby psychopharmaca potentially disrupt ecosystem structure and functioning. Their expected further increase in use poses a challenge for water managers and drinking water utilities regarding the management of water quality and further uses of water. The need to further improve water quality is broadly acknowledged. Decisions have to be made concerning investments in water treatment techniques to protect the ecosystem and ensure clean drinking water.
The current proposal focuses on possibilities to reduce emissions and effects of psychopharmaca, which make out a very relevant portion of total pharmaceutical use. We focus on possibilities to improve regulation and policies, possibilities to design more friendly alternatives, understand the scale of real-world ecosystem effects and on possible mitigation by water treatment technologies and nature-based solutions.
Gathering more insight in mitigation options along the chain from development, authorization, use and waste for psychopharmaca, this proposal will do an excellent job in strengthening existing efforts for a more healthy and safe surface water quality. The proposed research will run parallel to national activities regarding the Delta-approach for Water Quality and Chain-approach Pharmaceuticals, which enhances valorisation opportunities for the knowledge and mitigation options as developed. The approach followed will deliver scientific breakthroughs given the focus on lab-to-field extrapolation, the focus on subtle but ecosystem-relevant effects, and the combination of innovative experimental and modelling approaches


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. A.P. van Wezel

Affiliated with

Universiteit van Amsterdam, Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Instituut voor Biodiversiteit en Ecosysteem Dynamica - IBED


01/02/2020 to 01/09/2024