The Rat Park study, led by Bruce K. Alexander and colleagues, challenged traditional views on addiction by creating a more natural environment for rats. The study suggested that social and cultural isolation, rather than the inherent addictiveness of drugs, played a crucial role in addiction.

In the study, researchers compared the drug intake of rats housed in a reasonably normal environment 24 hours a day with rats kept in isolation in the solitary confinement cages that were standard in those days.

The rats in Rat Park, called the “Social Females” and “Social Males” in graph data, are consuming hardly any morphine solution, but the “Caged Females” and “Caged Males” are consuming a great quantity. In this experiment, the females consumed more than the males, but that gender difference did not hold up in later experiments (Alexander, 2010).

By presenting a more comprehensive understanding of drug addiction in rats, the study advocates for a shift in focus from the substances themselves to the broader environmental factors influencing addictive behaviors. The researchers published their results in psychopharmacology journals to challenge the prevailing narrative and encourage a more nuanced perspective on addiction, both in rodents and potentially in humans.

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Alexander, B. K. (2010). Rat Park Study. Addiction: The View from Rat Park (2010).