On June 18, 1971, a war was declared that
impacted the entire world and shaped one of the United States’ biggest mistakes. It caused turmoil, took many prisoners-of-war,
ruined countless lives, cost the United States billions of dollars, and spread illegal trafficking
like wildfire. The enemy that the declaration of war was
against was deemed to be the absolute greatest threat to the public of the United States. This enemy was not hunger, poverty, crime,
or weapons of mass destruction; it was drugs. When President Richard Nixon declared that
drugs were America’s “Public Enemy Number One”, the proposed solution was to “crack
down” on drug trafficking and usage through military might. However, the proposed solution failed to get
to the root of drug addiction or see things through the drug user’s point of view. Contrary to popular belief, drug users often
resort to taking drugs for relief from their problematic life. In the 1960’s, deceptive experiments took
place. In these experiments, rats were connected
to a supply of highly addictive drugs, such as heroin, through a tube that allowed the
drug to quickly enter their bloodstream. The rats were then given the choice to self-administer
the drugs as often as they liked using a lever. Advocates for the war on drugs were thrilled
when the results showed that these rats self-administered an enormous amount of drugs, even until death. They argued that the same happens in humans
and the war on drugs is justified. However, the most important variable of the
experiment was left out. Everyone omitted the fact that these rats
were placed in solitary confinement in tiny cages with no contact with other rats and
very little contact with humans. They were not allowed to exercise, be creative,
reproduce, play with other rats, run around, or have anything fulfilling besides administering
the narcotic. So another scientist named Bruce Alexander
and his team set out to break the status quo. They set up an experiment where rats were
given a large space to run around in with plenty of rat friends and members of the opposite
sex. They also had many hiding places, toys, exercise
wheels, and unlimited access to food. It was a type of rat paradise and that coined
the name “Rat-Park”. Yet the most important thing they were given
access to was an unlimited supply of the highly addictive drug “morphine”, which they
could self-administer through drinking a separate supply of water laced with it. Then the experimenters compared the drug intake
of these rats to rats placed in cramped, solitary confinement with the same choice of drinking
the morphine-laced drinking water or pure water. The results sparked a revolution in how we
look at drug addiction. They showed that the rats in Rat Park consumed
far, far less than the rats placed in solitary confinement and never overdosed. So what do these finding mean? It goes back to the fact that individuals
feeling fulfilled and enjoying their reality do not seek hardcore drugs to escape their
reality. An example of this was when an enormous amount
of Native Americans sought alcohol and became addicted after they were deemed “uncivilized”,
fell victim to disease, had their children forcibly assimilated into the English culture,
had their economies destroyed through being pushed out of their lands, and put on ever-shrinking
reserves by English settlers. An article by the Salem Press Encyclopedia
of Health states that some causes for addiction in humans are antisocial behavior, stress,
anxiety, and depression; all of these were present in the rats placed in solitary confinement
and the Native Americans pushed out of their lands. In contrast, out of the 20% of US soldiers
that were addicted to heroin while fighting in the terrible conditions of Vietnam, 95%
of those addicted never took heroin again after being brought back to the much better
conditions in America. However, rats have also shown that highly
addictive drugs, such as cocaine, make the brain’s dopamine receptors more sensitive
and create cravings for months after the drug is taken. Perhaps as Dr. Adi Jaffe points out in “Addiction,
Connection, and the Rat Park study”, victims of drug abuse should not be shamed, broken
down, or expelled; rather, there should be prevention efforts to educate them and programs
to offer them relief from their trauma. If drug abuse is caused by an individual having
a problematic life, then having to constantly look over one’s shoulder or receiving a
criminal record that prevents one from obtaining a job is extraordinarily counter-productive. Moreover, when Portugal decriminalized drugs
and treated its addicts rather than punishing them, drug use was reduced by half in a ten-year
period. So instead of spending billions on the estimated
50% of the American prison population imprisoned for drug-related crimes and waging the war
on drugs overseas, money could be spent turning these unfortunate users into productive individuals
through lending them a helping hand.


  1. "Murder is bad" pre – re – cbt Where in sentence it becomes a problem has nothing to do w that or not non to question b is.

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