Rat Park Revisited
It is always interesting when research which counters the disease model of alcoholism, or which suggests alternative models that are more in keeping with observation and experience, is suppressed.
With that preamble, let’s revisit the work of psychologist Bruce K. Alexander at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
Alexander had studied all of the research which said that rats who were isolated, constrained, and impaled with lab equipment, would consume morphine laced water in preference to plain water until they died of “addiction.”
He, probably like you and I, imagined that given the parameters, most of us would decide to dose ourselves to death too, so it was hardly surprising that the rats made the better of the only two choices they had. But what would happen if the rats had other choices?
With that thought in mind, Alexander constructed “Rat Park” where the rats lived in community, had a stimulating and playful environment, raised families, and generally lived an “engaged” life while still having the choice of plain or drugged water.
Over 90% of the rats chose the plain water.
Extending his research, Alexander recreated the original design and when the isolated rats were on the brink of death he transferred them to Rat Park. Want to guess what happened? How about a 90% spontaneous remission rate in drugging themselves.
Well, you might say, but those are rats. That doesn’t necessarily and automatically apply to people.
But suppose I told you that an unintentional experiment involving hundreds of thousands of people found the exact same outcomes?
That “experiment” was called The War in Viet Nam.
Military personnel trapped in a meaningless, isolated, and dangerous “cage” did what the rats did and self-medicated with heroin and other drugs. Yet when they returned to the U.S. after their tours the vast majority also underwent a spontaneous remission.
If you’d like more current information, give us a call and we’ll happily discuss the results our clients have achieved when they have become re-engaged in life, balanced their relationships, and learned to pay attention to the cues that alert all of us when we are headed back down the wrong road and into the cage.
And if you’d like another take on Rat Park, just click on the video link:
Johann Hari: Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.
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