The Cause of the Opiate Epidemic
Let us introduce you to Rat Park. You’ve heard the story about how addictive drugs are. Put a rat in a cage with a lever for water and a lever for water with drugs (heroin/cocaine) and without drugs, and the rat will soon be hitting the lever for drugs as fast as it can.
Drugs are sooooo addictive.
Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: Everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?
In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling.
The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
Somehow the story of Rat Park doesn’t get told often. I’ve read a lot on pain policy and addiction, and I hadn’t heard of it until recently.
Why is that, I wonder?
What has changed in the US to cause the “sudden” opiate epidemic, do you think?
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