[ExI] addiction

BillK pharos at gmail.com
Sun Apr 5 16:29:23 UTC 2015

On 5 April 2015 at 14:45, William Flynn Wallace  wrote:
> Long ago psychologists established that if you inserted a stimulator in a
> lab animal's pleasure centers, (in fact the studies that established the
> existence of them), the animal would make a response to get the stimulation
> until it fell over from exhaustion and then later get up and do it again.
> It could not be distracted by food or the smell of a receptive female.
> Surely this is the mother of all addictions.
> It is difficult to see how this behavior could in any way help an animal to
> survive and breed.

This view was wildly popular back in the 1960s and 70s when the
research was a breakthrough in the discovery of the brain pleasure
centres. But there are now dissenting voices.

The Rat Park experiments, published in psychopharmacology journals in
the late 1970s and early 1980s, flatly contradicted the dominant view
of addiction in their day.
The Rat Park experiments were among the first to show the error in the
once dominant myth that certain drugs, particularly the opiates,
convert all or most users into drug addicts. In the 1970s, this myth
was said to be demonstrated by the high consumption of opiates and
stimulants of rats isolated in specially modified Skinner Boxes that
allowed drug self-administration. Alexander and his colleagues
demonstrated experimentally that rats isolated in cages of about the
same size as Skinner Boxes consume far more morphine than rats that
are socially housed in Rat Park. Subsequent research has confirmed
that social housing reduces drug intake in rats and that the dominant
myth was wrong both for rats and for human beings. Nonetheless, the
myth is still embedded in popular culture.

Alexander then explored the broader implications of Rat Park
experiments for human beings. The main conclusions of his experimental
and historical research since 1985 can be summarized as follows:
1) Drug addiction is only a small corner of the addiction problem.
Most serious addictions do not involve either drugs or alcohol
2) Addiction is more a social problem than an individual problem. When
socially integrated societies are fragmented by internal or external
forces, addiction of all sorts increases dramatically, becoming almost
universal in extremely fragmented societies.
3) Addiction arises in fragmented societies because people use it as a
way of adapting to extreme social dislocation. As a form of
adaptation, addiction is neither a disease that can be cured nor a
moral error that can be corrected by punishment and education.

Sounds good to me.


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