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Common Read - Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic

Rat Park Study and Opioids

In the Rat Park Study, psychologists tested the hypothesis that drugs do not cause addiction, but rather the isolation in which lab rats were commonly housed. They did so by constructing “Rat Park,” an idealized habitat where 16–20 rats lived and played together. Unlike traditional rat cages, the residents had easy access to food, balls and wheels for play, and enough space for mating.

The study received little attention on its initial publication. Several decades later, amid growing concerns about the failing war on drugs, its simple message--that it is not the drug but the cage that makes the addict--has been advanced by several dominant voices. Since its rise to prominence there have been questions of these simple interpretations. -RK

Critiques of the Rat Park Study