Sunday, December 02, 2007

Everything You Know About Drugs Is Wrong

Skinner_box

Read an interesting article in the Walrus yesterday....

So, okay, every article I read in the Walrus is interesting. I devour it cover to cover. ANYWAY...

There was an article which I'm going to have to carry around with me and thrust upon unsuspecting friends and relatives. It seems to be online for free at the moment, and you can find it here.

The article is about a SFU psych prof named Bruce Alexander who debunked the Skinner Box theory in the 1970s--only to be promptly ignored.

Skinner Box Theory: Put a rat in a box. Give the rat drugs every time it pushes a lever. The rat will push the lever constantly, so as to be constantly high. Conclusion: access to drugs equals drug addiction.

Alexander had a suspicion that this was not the whole story, based on his work with Downtown Eastside opiate addicts. (Sidenote: I always refer to this as the "Lower East Side", because I watch too much Law & Order.) His observations suggested that addicts could kick the habit, but in the context of their lives, there was no point. He conjectured that the fact that a rat stuck alone in a box (rats are pack animals) with no recreation, company, etc. etc., would of course become a junkie, but that a happy rat with other options might not. So he built a happy rat palace for a whole rat colony, and then gave them the option of drinking regular water to morphine-laced water.

Results: rats prefer drinking regular water and doing happy rat activities to being stoned. This was true even when the water was sweetened to make it more attractive. In fact, even when Alexander forced the rats to become addicted (chemically) by restricting them to the morphine-water, and then gave them the option, they would put themselves through withdrawal in order to go back to their clean, happy-rat lives.

This article is fascinating stuff people. Read it, read it now!

1 comment:

David John Caswell said...

Hi Sarah,
What a fascinating theory with regards the rats!
If only it were so simple in real life. Unfortunately we don't all live in a 'happy rat palace' environment! Too many other bad influences. For some people life is probably more like the first scenario!
Do check out my blog and let me know what you think.

dave-caswell.blogspot.com

dave