Crack and meth addicts probably aren't as addicted as you think


And we could have all known this in 1980 if we’d paid any attention to Rat Park


But that carries the grim potential that we might have to stop pretending that we can solve addicts if only we punish them for being bad people hard enough. That would undo decades of shared American Values going back to St. Reagan himself!


“X isn’t as X as you think” seems to have become the default claim for most Boing Boing science headlines/stories.

Well, I’ll try to find more fun ways to say it. But I can only stop saying it when it stops being true.


Purchased the Kindle edition of his book High Price last night and started reading. It’s an incredible piece of writing that combines personal experience and hard science in a very accessible way, so far.

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Well, this will make Walter White feel MUCH better.

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It is very saddening that this antique concept, that acute drug use correlates to chronic misery, was so ignored. It had currency in the 70’s when the penal system paid more than lip service to rehabilitation. Then Reagan came into office.

When you lump all forms of chronic escapist/diverting behaviors together (substance abuse, tobacco,alcohol, gambling, etc.), you are left with 1 in 8 who have difficulty in self-regulation.


I wish I had known that back in 1985 when I saw my good friend Sydney running up the street with his mother’s VCR to get more crack. Or Brian, who lost 90lbs during the summer of 86 and subsequently his life from hitting the pipe non-stop for a year.

These were guys from problem neighborhoods, but with caring parents and families. The LAST you would expect that to happen to.

Did I spark this renewed interest in the subject? Doesn’t matter, I guess, I am glad to see it regardless.

I noticed when I was a little kid that nearly everyone I saw was clearly addicted to something - cigarettes, coffee, alcohol, gambling, whatever. But the official narrative was “addicts will do anything - ANYTHING to get their fix! Addiction removes the moral centers and you can’t trust an addict, they’ll shoot you just to sell your shoes!” which didn’t really jibe with any reality I could see. In the reality I inhabited, morality and addict status weren’t strongly linked; there was a pretty strong link was between desperate acts and desperate poverty, but even that wasn’t the 100% correspondence that government propaganda claimed existed between amoral behavior and addiction.


Based on his research, Carl Hart believes that drug use is merely a symptom of a life that’s gone awry for other, more systemic, reasons.

Bill W discovered the same thing way back in 1939.


His message would probably get more traction if it wasn’t couched in the rhetorical framework of Christianity.

Edit: although maybe that wasn’t true in 1939!

Generic Christianity was the civil religion of the era, absolutely, but the chapter “We Agnostics” also dates to 1939. I’m pretty sure a strictly Atheist version would be allowed, but it would probably be very small.

Oh, I hadn’t realized there was a boingboing post about Rat Park just this past Monday.

I’ve linked RP three or four times in the past couple of weeks, which is why I was wondering if I triggered the resurgence of interest. Cory has a great picture topping his post, doesn’t he?

Rodents in Rat Park had ample sexual opportunity, which I think is more significant than the trippy painted walls. But I like the walls, I think they demonstrate something about the way the researchers felt towards the rats; and I bet the psychological state that the researchers had and demonstrated - both consciously and unconsciously - also had impact on the rats.

I don’t know if “self-regulation” is the right term, but even if it is I don’t know if you can quantify so easily how many people have the problem. Rats in little rat cages given a morphine button basically all keep themselves doped up all the time. Given sufficiently bad conditions pretty much everyone would decide it was better to be on drugs than to experience life as it is.

Also, I know you put etc. at the end of your list, but I’d like to nominate self-mutilation for inclusion anyway. It has a very different character than substance abuse but it is another way of regulating emotions that you can’t handle (just one that most people can’t identify with).

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Trippy walls might have helped a bit but I think even a rat would get used to that and just think of it as normal. If my “research” into humans shows anything it’s that trippy walls actually encourage drug use. Anyway, sex is great and all, but really I think it’s just having enough space and enough food and not having to risk their lives to get either. That’s a pretty sweet deal for a rat. Again, in humans we see that often sex is a function of boredom as well. Sex, after all, is a lot more like an opiate than it is like a fulfilling creative endeavour (I know, I’m doing it wrong - but rats mostly are too).

I think it would be meaninful to distinguish between people who are self-regulating through the use of drugs (like alcohol, for example, which is not harmful in reasonable dosages for most people) and people who are harming themselves - whether it be with razors or with whiskey.

Well, what I meant (and obviously expressed poorly) is that the experimenters in the classic rat addiction studies before Rat Park probably hated the experimental subjects, or at best were indifferent to their suffering (given Temple Grandin’s research on humans in such positions). Mammals are pretty good at reading that sort of thing in other mammals.

I think the experimenters at Rat Park were kindly inclined, in their own minds, towards the rats. I think that psychological state would shape their actions, in the way they handled and observed the rats, and I bet that was part of what was going on. Instead of humans being hateful tormentors, they were more like benevolent gods.

But maybe I’m reading too much into the wall art…

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Am I the only one thinking “bullshit” here?

From the Times article, the the procedure for his study was to recruit addicts using the Village Voice, paying them $950 to smoke crack made from “pharmaceutical-grade” cocaine (whatever that is). They’d then have to opportunity to either smoke more crack, or receive a small amount of cash.

Am I the only one that’s skeptical of this? Under what kind of medical ethics are you allowed to supply your test subjects with crack? Even if so… it’s one study that contradicts a whole lot of other evidence. And, who’s to say that the addicts weren’t taking the $20 so they could… you know, go buy some more crack?

Sure reads like bullshit to me,