Rat Park vs. Rat Prison

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I stumbled across a reference to a few studies regarding drugs/addiction testing and decided to read up on them more.
Studies in the 70s were conducted on rats to test the effects of drugs being easily available to them. Rats were put into standard cages and given a choice between drug-laced water and normal tap water. The majority of rats developed a dependence and chose the drug laced water repeatedly. They literally chose the drug laced water to the point of death. These studies have helped shape the perception of drugs, legislation that followed as well as the treatments.
I know from creating statistical studies and designing experiments myself, the key to having an accurate study is to eliminate all variables except for the one that is to be measured. This is the only way to have a true understanding of its impacts and corresponding response(s). These studies did not do this because they ignored a large variable, the living conditions of the rats.
A different study was conducted by Bruce Alexander in BC Canada. The rats were placed in a 95 square foot living space which is 200 times the size of the standard rat cage. They were then given the option of drug-laced water and tap water. The majority chose to drink tap water, start litters and ignore the drug laced water most of the time. Some would continue to take sips of the drug laced water on occasion but did not do it to the point that it was affecting their other activities, like having litters, eating food and drinking normal tap water. Simply put they were not self-destructive. There was also a group that was given only drug laced water for 57 days in a standard cage. They were then released into the same 95 sqft environment. Initially a physical dependence was still exhibited and twitches and ticks were present but not to the degree that the caged rats exhibited which included violent twitches and seizures when the drug laced water was removed. When given the choice of the drug laced water and tap water, many also started to choose the tap water over the drug laced water.
Alexander’s study seems to be far from ideal in my opinion and was obviously not critically accepted (exhibited by the fact that this was the first time many reading this have ever heard of it). His studies were conducted multiple times with varying results. Psychiatrist Kleber called the experiments “disingenuous” and “the methodology suspect” while accusing Alexander of distorting the data but refused to provide specific examples. Kleber is also a former deputy of William Bennett (former “drug czar”), whose opinion may not be based on objective reasoning but the vested political interest in the continuation of the “war on drugs.”
My own conclusion from the reading I found is that Alexander’s study did not prove anything conclusively, if for no reason other than that the results were not consistently repeatable. What I do think is that it disproves the accuracy and validity of the conclusions derived from the original studies. It shows there are additional factors to drug addiction outside of simple availability that include genetics and environment (i.e. the perception or reality that your environment is truly a prison).
I understand that drugs can be destructive. But it is also destructive to assume the problem is simply availability; if one assumes that the problem is availability then the solution seems simple as well, just eliminate the availability. Many of us like simple neat answers but these rarely exist in reality. Moving forward with the idea that the issue is simply availability is a very dangerous trajectory.
What studies like this tell me is that it is not as black and white as many would want you to believe. If the rats are kept in tight cages and their freedom increasingly being suppressed the tendency to dull the pain of their prison-like existence can/will lead to continual drug use. But if allowed a free unobstructed existence drug use will still exist, but the oft cited problems (i.e. violent crime) will approach levels of non-existence.
So did the original studies prove that it is dangerous for animals/mammals to be allowed to have a choice to use potentially dangerous drugs? I think it did, if you work under the assumption that every creature is already a slave or an inmate in a prison.
When a person(s) uses coercion and force to take away choices from others, I consider that a form of imprisonment. So, is this feeling of imprisonment the very cause of drug abuse or a major contributing factor? It might be the over-reaching power that people impose on their fellow man to control what goes into their own body that leads to the sense of imprisonment which in is a major contributor to drug use becoming drug abuse/addiction. The current proposed solution might actually be exacerbating the issue it was instituted to prevent/solve. When a solution makes a situation worse, it ceases to be a solution and if continued becomes nothing more than an agenda.
I think we can assume that we will continue to see drug abuse in our world, but is it because drugs are available or because we are prisoners? So, what is the solution? I am not going to claim I have all the solutions to life and society’s problems but I am seeing a pattern, things improve when there is unobstructed freedom.

poof, it’s gone…

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Luckily, we’re not rats. While we may engage in self-destructive behavior, the vast majority are aware we are engaging in self-destructive behavior while we are doing it. Your higher brain can fight addiction, despite what we’re told.

    Unless you’re a researcher looking for another grant. No hope for them, because they fail to realize they’re addicted to government largess.

    • I agree (with a caveat), it allows us to engage in destructive behavior while knowing it is destructive but then I am not sure the vast majority are not “rats”. After bouncing comments back and forth with poster known as “clover” and a recent discussion with a co-worker I am left with a pessimistic view.
      He/she/it does not seem to have the brain capacity to understand that govt levyng the degree of control over our lives like it currently and increasingly does is self-destructive behvior even when he/she/it is engaging in it.

      It then comes back to the fact that their minds are imprisoned by the controls and propaganda which then make them feel imprisoned and helpless and then seek out more drug/govt control in teh hopes it dulls the pain.

      THe only solution I see is free people minds.
      much easier said than done.

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