Berkeley CSUA MOTD:Entry 52559
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2017/09/24 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular
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2009/2/12-18 [Health] UID:52559 Activity:nil
2/12    Debunking the "rat in a cage and drugs" myth:
        http://www.metafilter.com/79100/Rat-Park-and-Other-Childrens-Stories
          \_ this is a great link. tnx.
2017/09/24 [General] UID:1000 Activity:popular
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www.metafilter.com/79100/Rat-Park-and-Other-Childrens-Stories
Rat Park was "an alternative laboratory environment constructed around the need of the subjects rather than the experimenters. A colony of rats, who are naturally gregarious, were allowed to roam together in a large vivarium enriched with wheels, balls and other playthings, on a deep bed of aromatic cedar shavings and with plenty of space for breeding and private interactions. Pleasant woodland vistas were even painted on the surrounding walls. Even when Alexander tried to seduce his rats by sweetening the morphine, the ones in Rat Park drank far less than the ones in cages. Only when he added naloxone, which eliminates morphine's narcotic effects, did the rats in Rat Park start drinking from the water-sugar-morphine bottle. They wanted the sweet water, but not if it made them high... In a variation he calls "Kicking the Habit," Alexander gave rats in both environments nothing but morphine-laced water for fifty-seven days, until they were physically dependent on the drug. But as soon as they had a choice between plain water and morphine, the animals in Rat Park switched to plain water more often than the caged rats did, voluntarily putting themselves through the discomfort of withdrawal to do so... Rat Park showed that a rat's environment, not the availability of drugs, leads to dependence. In a normal setting, a narcotic is an impediment to what rats typically do: fight, play, forage, mate. It's no surprise that a distressed animal with access to narcotics would use them to seek relief." book argues that the most effective response to a growing addiction problem is a social and political one, rather than an individual one. Such a solution would not put the doctors, psychologists, social workers, policemen, and priests out of work, but it would incorporate their practices in a larger social project. The project is to reshape society with enough force and imagination to enable people to find social integration and meaning in everyday life. Then great numbers of them would not need to fill their inner void with addictions." It fits nicely with the idea of drugs as a symptom of human misery, rather than its cause. Of course, one must be very cautious in extrapolating from rat behavior to human behavior. Academically, I would find it interesting to know what other kinds of stressors provoke addictive behavior in rats (other than small living space). But I wouldn't want anyone to do that experiment, because I love rats, and it ain't right to mess with them like that. For decades, scientists believed that adult brain growth was impossible because studies with caged rats showed no brain growth. Put the rats in a stimulating environment, however, and there's enough brain activity going on to provoke the growth of new neurons. Perhaps stress, then, is not the primary factor behind the caged group's morphine preference. To take a much larger leap, look at schooling in Baltimore and Anacostia compared to areas with higher property taxes and better-funded school districts. Look at the differential rates of drug use between these two groups. I'll bet anyone a Yuengling that you'll find a negative correlation between drug use and academic stimulation, and I'll make a side bet that outlier data will come from classrooms with exceptional (-ly bad in the suburbs, -ly good in the city) teachers. book argues that the most effective response to a growing addiction problem is a social and political one, rather than an individual one. Such a solution would not put the doctors, psychologists, social workers, policemen, and priests out of work, but it would incorporate their practices in a larger social project. Good doctors, psychologists, social workers, policement, and priests are already trying to work to change society, not just address individual addiction. They are stymied by the rest of the world who insist that there's nothing wrong with society and anyone's addiction must be due to their own personal failings. You only have to read any thread on education or crime on Metafilter to see that even enlightened people are perfectly willing to blame the poor for the predicament and completely ignore the complicity of the rest of us. Also, since rats are naturally gregarious, if you take an unexposed rat and place it in an environment where his fellow rats are addicted, would he be more likely to become addicted (in short, the effects of peer pressure)? There's some addiction in my own family, and by and large, I usually feel that I can't blame those individuals, because they have been through some serious misery; in their shoes, can't say I wouldn't reach for comfort anywhere I could, either. I wish that this study was likely to change how we treat drug addiction in this society, but I doubt it. my sister works for the salvation army and is pretty adamant that the addicts she "serves" are there because they're weak in the face of temptation. if you told her that she (along with the rest of us) was partially responsible her head might explode! I fight it regularly with my dependency on exercise-induced endorphins. And heaven help anyone who comes between me and my daily caffeine shots. As an addict, I'm struggling to see what this study has to offer our broader understanding of addiction in general, other than narcotic drugs might be more appealing to individuals with nothing better to do. I think you would find exceptions with the best schools because the students have more money to buy drugs. All of the kids I knew from college that went to boarding school did far more drugs on average than the poor kids that went to my high school, and that includes the gang members. I never exactly made the connection directly, although I am generally pro-legalization and for government programs. About the rats liking sweet water: I think the big difference is that they're neurologically hardwired to like sweet things. It's unquestionably certain to them that sweet things are a great thing to find in nature, and, as scavengers in nature, they should take advantage to get vital nutrients. Rats with fruit eat a lot, and don't get that sick, IIRC, but rats with pure lard or pure sugar will eat so much that they face the same health consequences humans face with out of control eating. The fact they avoid morphine makes it all the more clear that a mammal with a good life will try to avoid consuming intoxicants on a regular basis. The connection between morphine and the high is a learned connection, but they're probably also connecting the displeasure of coming off the high and realize it's a net loss in that environment. They probably don't avoid sugar, though, as the consequences are too far in the future for the mice to put two and two together. However, these results are very interesting, but I fear I may have been anthropomorphizing the results. What would produce more compelling results, in my opinion, would be a test with a more neurologically complex animal, such as pigs or chimps. Of course, that introduces more ethical concerns and raises the expense significantly, but there's a huge gap in terms of the ability to predict the results, observe peers on the drug, and plan out behaviors. Chuffy: "3) Why do studies like this always focus on illicit drugs, when we have a lot of legal drugs with far worse side-effects and addiction potential?" I don't think legality really matters since opiates are spread across the spectrum right through from heroin to oxycodone. This study used morphine, which is considered the prototypical opiate, and has a huge potential for abuse. It would be interesting to see follow-up studies that use stimulants rather than analgesics, to see if this can completely generalize to "addiction". Nature and Science frequently reject articles without sending them out for peer review, purely on the basis of whether or the editors find the articles interesting enough. Its entirely possible that the article was rejected by these journals because they didn't think it was "cool" enough. Speaking as someone currently trying to kick a nicotine addiction, I have to say that while the implications of the study may be true, they don't seem very helpful to an ...