We’ve all heard the stories about how lab rats will do almost anything to get drugs. If allowed to self-administer drugs they are addicted to, rats will choose dosing themselves instead of socializing with other rats, or even eating. Some rats even die from personal neglect. The implications are clear, kids. Not even once, or you’ll die in the street. The implications are clear, lawmakers. Mandatory minimum sentencing and heightened enforcement.
People aren’t rats. There are problems with drawing these kinds of conclusions from what rats do in labs. These conclusions may have been accepted more out of political need than scientific research. But there are bigger questions here. None of this research really tells us even very much about rats. Do rats really like drugs that much? Under what conditions will a rat become addicted to drugs? Can rats overcome their addictions?
In 1977 a research team went looking for these answers, and found them in Rat Park.
Again, there are problems with drawing conclusions about humans from research on rats. Even so, I think it’s pretty clear that many of us don’t live in Rat Park. I don’t know how we could even get there, but I think nothing else could make more of a difference.
Bonus fun link: Do you think your cat may have a drug problem? You might want to watch this video with your cat.