27 April 2014

Do depressed lab rats dictate international drug policy?

What would happen, wondered psychologist Dr Bruce Alexander, then of British Columbia's Simon Fraser University, if these animals were instead provided with a comfortable, stimulating environment?

In 1981, Alexander built a 200sq ft home for lab rats. Rat Park, as it became known, was kept clean and temperate, while the rats were supplied with plenty of food and toys, along with places to dig, rest and mate. Alexander even painted the walls with a soothing natural backdrop of lakes and trees. He then installed two drips, one containing a morphine solution, the other plain water. This was rat heaven: but would happy rats develop morphine habits?

Try as he might, Alexander could not make junkies out of his rats. Even after being force-fed morphine for two months, when given the option, they chose plain water, despite experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms. He laced the morphine with sugar, but still they ignored it. Only when he added Naloxone, an opiate inhibitor, to the sugared morphine water, did they drink it.

Source: The Guardian


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