Rat Park heroin experiment

This video is an animation of an experiment conducted in the late 1970s by Canadian Psychologist Bruce Alexander and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University. The experiment aimed to show the effect environment has on drug use and to discard the hypotheses that the drug itself was the sole cause of addiction. Alexander built a rat colony (Rat Park), which was 200 times the size of a normal laboratory cage, which housed between 16 - 20 rats of both sexes.  He wanted to show that in previous experiments using rats in the study drug addiction the reason that the rats had shown symptoms of drug addiction did so because they were distressed due to the conditions they lived in. However the rats in Rat Park, who had wheels and fluffy balls to entertain them, given the option of water or a sweetened morphine solution mostly abstained from the drug.

The rats in Rat Park had previously been administered only morphine hydrochloride for 57 consecutive days in a laboratory cage however once in a less distressing environment they still did not continue consuming the opioid solution. Subsequent experiments where rats were kept in cold cramped cages showed that they were far more likely to consume the morphine solution than the rats in Rat Park.

The Rat Park experiments discard the hypotheses that once addict always an addict and also show the correlation between one’s environment and drug use.

Experts at Simon Fraser University have continued in the research of drug addiction and a study was recently published on crack use in non-urban communities.


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