What causes drug addiction? Easy! Addictive substances. You take heroin and you’ll become an addict for sure, right? This is the narrative that our society teaches us. It is the reason why we treat addicts like criminals, blaming them for the choice they have made when they could have just as easily chosen a normal, conventional life, like everyone else.
But what if it’s not that easy or simple?
The Rat Park Experiment
In 1970, Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander and his colleagues at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia conducted a study that directly challenged the common notion that drugs are themselves the cause of addiction.
They put lab rats in small separate cages, each with two water dispensers; one of them filled with pure water and the other with water mixed with heroin or cocaine. The rats would end up compulsively pressing the drug dispensing lever again and again, even to the point of choosing it over food. Soon enough, they would starve themselves to death. Sounds like the typical drug addict behavior, right?