Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Bruce Alexander's Rat Park: Addiction occurs in a Social Context


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Bruce Alexander found that caged rats learned to prefer heroin to water, but rats living in a healthier environment did not.


Rat Park
"We ran several experiments comparing the drug consumption of rats in Rat Park with rats in solitary confinement in regular laboratory cages. In virtually every experiment, the rats in solitary confinement consumed more drug solution, by every measure we could devise. And not just a little more. A lot more.
Here are the results of one of our first experiments.
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You will see at a glance that the rats in Rat Park, called the “Social Females” and “Social Males” in this graph, are consuming hardly any morphine solution, but the “Caged Females” and “Caged Males” are consuming a lot.
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When I talk to addicted people, whether they are addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling, Internet use, sex, or anything else, I encounter human beings who really do not have a viable social or cultural life. They use their addictions as a way of coping with their dislocation: as an escape, a pain killer, or a kind of substitute for a full life. More and more psychologists and psychiatrists are reporting similar observations. Maybe our fragmented, mobile, ever-changing modern society has produced social and cultural isolation in very large numbers of people, even though their cages are invisible! 
The view of addiction from Rat Park is that today’s flood of addiction is occurring because our hyperindividualistic, hypercompetitive, frantic, crisis-ridden society makes most people feel social and culturally isolated. Chronic isolation causes people to look for relief. They find temporary relief in addiction to drugs or any of a thousand other habits and pursuits because addiction allows them to escape from their feelings, to deaden their senses, and to experience an addictive lifestyle as a substitute for a full life."




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