Addiction, Community, & the Rat Park Experiment

Addiction, Community, & The Rat Park Experiment

There is an addiction epidemic going on folks.

From high functioning alcoholics to the affluent CEO snorting cocaine to the homeless on heroin, it’s a big problem with limited solutions.

And that’s sad.

I work in the recovery field. It’s disheartening to read people’s stories each day on the forum, feeling quite limited as to how to help them. But, even if it’s simply connecting with them via cyber space, letting them know they are heard, seen, and loved unconditionally…

That’s something.

Which brings me to the Rat Park Experiment, which proves that one thing is super important when it comes to addiction recovery:

Authentic Community.

Give rats a choice to drink regular water or water laced with heroin and they’ll sip that heroin concoction till they die.

Add a “Rat Park”, where other rats are present, as well as a nice environment with rat toys, and the rats will choose the community over the heroin.

In the book, Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari, this experiment is talked about at length.

Addiction in the real world

Granted, we’re not dealing with rats in the real world, but men, women, and youth very much struggling with addiction problems.  It’s not a pretty picture.  So how can we really use the Rat Park Experiment’s findings to help suffering addicts in the real world? Decriminalize drug addicts? More education?

The thing is, we live in an imperfect world where there’s a lot of trauma and pain going on. We lose loved ones, we get heartbroken in relationships, people are abused, neglected, wars ravage people and lands, and stress is at an all-time high. 

Is it possible to manifest Utopia anytime soon? While that would be nice, it’s not likely.  I don’t have the answers, but my hope is that there’s more prevention efforts, less shaming, and more affordable and effective treatments, including alternative, holistic treatments.

The Rat Park Experiment as a tool

It matters. People matter.  The Rat Park Experiment is a great tool though, for us all to pay attention to what kind of environment we’re living in.  Our surrounding matter, and loneliness is a factor that leads MANY to turn to the bottle or drug to numb out. To escape.  Emotional pain too.  May we all pay more attention to the issues going on under the surface, rather than at the symptoms, and offer better treatment, compassion, and unconditional love.


Rat Park Experiment Video

Johann Hari TED Talk about Rat Park Experiment