It comes up a lot, maybe because the result is kind of positive and aligns well with HN's crowds drug liberal views?
The RP experiment wrt morphine addiction in mice has not been replicated. Also, afaik, Bruce Alexander had a hypothesis about drug addiction, designed an experiment to prove his hypothesis. Performed the experiment, measured the results and found that they confirmed his hypothesis. It's not a good way to do research. The results of the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram experiments should be discredited for the same reason. Because their results were tainted by their designer.
Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proofs. That mice wouldn't become addicted to morphine is most certainly an extraordinary claim.
Actually, the original hypothesis Stanley Milgram had was that Germans were somehow predisposed to obedience as a culture or race. His studies in the United States were what's called a "pilot test" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pilot_experiment) conducted to verify if everything was working as expected. Once he had some control readings for Americans, Milgram planned to go to Germany and conduct the real experiment.
Milgram, and virtually all of his colleagues, believed that nobody would obey until the end of the study. He polled his colleagues, and the highest number ANYONE gave was 3%.
If you're not familiar with the Milgram experiments, take a minute to read up on them. Roughly 60% completed the experiment, obeying orders until the end.
For what it's worth I think you're wrong about conducting science, maybe right about the rat park, but don't bring the Milgram experiments into it. They are possibly the most valuable result science has ever given us.
According to Gina Perry, she has found clear evidence of cheating in one of Milgram's 23 experiment series. It's of course possible that the other experiments were carried out properly but I think one bad apple spoils the whole bunch in this case. Even if other experiments arrive at similar results it doesn't change the fact that the original may be tainted.
That's the very definition of the Scientific Method, so I don't understand what problem you're pointing out:
"The overall process of the scientific method involves making conjectures ( hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based on those predictions." -- from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_method
(That the experiment has not been replicated as you claim could be a bad sign, but that's a separate matter.)
The scientific process is a social one, and if you feel that an experiment is constructed unfairly, you can devise another experiment to falsify it.
Saying that an experiment "confirms" a hypothesis is just a rhetorical trick of the comment parent. Experiments can only ever falsify.
A striking example is the (2,4,6) test. From wikipedia:
"Wason's research on hypothesis-testing
The term "confirmation bias" was coined by English psychologist Peter Wason. For an experiment published in 1960, he challenged participants to identify a rule applying to triples of numbers. At the outset, they were told that (2,4,6) fits the rule. Participants could generate their own triples and the experimenter told them whether or not each triple conformed to the rule.
While the actual rule was simply "any ascending sequence", the participants had a great deal of difficulty in finding it, often announcing rules that were far more specific, such as "the middle number is the average of the first and last". The participants seemed to test only positive examples—triples that obeyed their hypothesized rule. For example, if they thought the rule was, "Each number is two greater than its predecessor", they would offer a triple that fit this rule, such as (11,13,15) rather than a triple that violates it, such as (11,12,19).
Wason accepted falsificationism, according to which a scientific test of a hypothesis is a serious attempt to falsify it. He interpreted his results as showing a preference for confirmation over falsification, hence the term "confirmation bias".[Note 4] Wason also used confirmation bias to explain the results of his selection task experiment. In this task, participants are given partial information about a set of objects, and have to specify what further information they would need to tell whether or not a conditional rule ("If A, then B") applies. It has been found repeatedly that people perform badly on various forms of this test, in most cases ignoring information that could potentially refute the rule."
It's interesting to note that the criticism of the Rat Park experiment uses exactly the same reasoning Rat Park designers used against self-administering experiment, namely that one of seemingly innocuous parts of experimental setup (isolation and genetic variance respectively) was causing a major results bias.
"Liberal drug views" in general seem to have a lot of real world support, while hard-core punitive prohibitionism has been a failure in every way pretty much everywhere it's been tried... that is unless your goal is to imprison a large number of people, perpetuate cycles of poverty and crime, and route lots of money to the prison and police/security industries. In that case they're a big success. At this point I consider prohibitionism to be a crackpot view. I get the sense that with at least some people prohibitionism is supported as an indirect way to persecute minority groups. It was true back when the "war on drugs" was pursued, and I think it's still true today.
There are cases where certain liberal positions do not have real-world support and basically don't work, but this isn't one of them. None of our over-arching political bias frameworks (right, left, etc.) jive perfectly with reality.
Uh, what? This is the definition of science.
> Extraordinary claims requires extraordinary proofs. That mice wouldn't become addicted to morphine is most certainly an extraordinary claim.
So says you. Also, extraordinary claims require the same proof as any other claim, that oft cited quote makes no sense. Labeling something 'extraordinary' inherently shows that you have a bias, not the person questioning the claim.
That is evidence for the claim that addiction has become unassailable fact. Regurgitated without critical thought.
Are there people who have liberal views on drugs because they don't believe that addiction is real or that drugs are often harmful? I have views about drugs which would probably be considered liberal, but they have nothing to do with whether drugs are addictive or harmful.
> That mice wouldn't become addicted to morphine is most certainly an extraordinary claim.
Is it? I've never known anyone who has claimed to be addicted or even exposed to morphine. Having observed no actual evidence myself, why is one claim that morphine is addictive any more extraordinary than another claim that morphine isn't addictive?
You haven't observed, but people in the Law and Health professions have and do on a regular basis. There have been plenty of studies on it. All consistent with its addictive nature. Your lack of personal experience does not make each side equally likely. One is clearly more consistent with reality, and the other is not. Thats why one claim is extraordinary, and the other is not.
IMO, Rat Park would have been far more interesting if they had presented rats with identical environments but the difference being social isolation not just living in a tiny cage.
To a certain degree it comes down to a semantic argument about how you define environment.
* Just the structural physical environment - nice benches, and trees, flats that are a decent size, and don't have mould on the walls, etc
* this plus the consequences of other people on the physical environment - needles left in parks, shouting in the corridors, people pissing in the lift
* this plus the immediate social environment - you are treated badly because you look like a drug addict
* this plus the cumulative internalized values that you have picked up from your social environment throughout your lifetime - other people living successful, prosperous lives around you, or in mass media, and you falling short of your expectations
Rats don't necessarily have the latter two, at least I don't think they have a social stigma for drug addiction!
For humans, the parallels are inevitably to some degree limited, because you can't just take someone out of their own mind, and put them somewhere where they feel good about themselves, although you can try, and will succeed with many.
>> I don't know if rats could understand this concept though, which might be why they aren't all living in Afghanistan's poppy fields.
And indeed humans don't.
Or rather of any study trying to deduce from rats onto humans. And that's not to say that rats have a non-complicated society.
I'm sure, as in most things, the reality is a gradient between those extremes. But it sure seems majority only believe / see first extreme.
Immediately made me think of this great old sci-fi story: http://bestsciencefictionstories.com/2009/05/17/desertion-by...
And yes, I've been clean for three years, but whenever I'd go through withdrawals every single nerve ending would be on fire and I'd be hypersensitive to pain. It's an interesting phenomenon. Part of that is caused by your brain downregulating it's own endorphin receptors, as you're providing it with something else that's much more powerful: you take away that stimulus and it takes your body and mind a while to adjust and upregulate those receptors again.
We accept we're no longer in our ancestral environment, why can't we accept that our default chemistry is suboptimal?
Our brains operate suboptimal because we can not control their state. We get worried when it provides no benefit. We get sad and troubled when we shouldn't. We experience intense pain with no way to shut it off. We lose focus, even when we really want to concentrate.
Everyone should have the capability and choice of modifying their brain chemistry on demand. Your premise that people should be forced to be unnecessarily unsatisfied because some of them might go on to do great things is cruel.
This is backwards, our brains are us.
>>We lose focus, even when we really want to concentrate.
This is a microcosm of the dangers involved, in modifying brain chemistry. Consider things like hyperfocus or working straight on amphetamine leading to shit code.
>>Our brains operate suboptimal because we can not control their state.
Many of the things you want can be achieved well by a machine or somebody without emotion? Do we want this?
>>Your premise that people should be forced to be unnecessarily unsatisfied because some of them might go on to do great things is cruel.
Its hard to decouple satisfaction from drive, and willpower - we have rather blunt instruments and current drugs build real dependency problems making it almost impossible to stop. Today's drugs don't do what you are talking about.
My favorite quote:
>I used to torture some of the people I sold drugs to by asking them if they knew why they got out of bed in the morning. "Why do you get out of bed every morning?" I would ask. Most didn't have any idea. When they realized this, I would pounce: "I know why I get out of bed," I'd say, almost imperially "it's because I'm sick as shit and need to do a shot." So there.
And from the first comment:
>In spite of my immediate delight with heroin and vow to use it as much as possible, it took over 6 months, and really closer to a year, of consistent use before the body became physiologically addicted. That said, addiction is rarely only physiological in nature. More often than not, it is caused by social factors.
Extended release opiates are a huge lifesaver though, allowing you to wake up without feeling like torture incarnate.
[of course the alternate hypothesis is that what I was being supplied with wasn't opium, but I prefer the first one...]
Still, it's an intriguing result. The reviewer comments from science and nature would make interesting reading - too bad they are not public.
That paints a confusing picture, so without looking at the specifics of the later studies for possible differences, I think it's hard to come to a conclusion.
"The first group was housed in individual stainless steel cages (18 x 25 x 18 cm) that prevented tactile and visual contact among the rats."
"The second condition consisted of rats housed in groups of 10 in a large stainless steel cage (45 x 101 x 39 cm) that permitted social contact; these rats displayed normal play behavior, dominance struggles, and social grooming."
Okay, one rat in 450 cm^2 vs 10 rats in 4545 cm^2, both in steel cages. Compared to Rat Park, which was 8.8m^2 (close to twice the size), and was specifically not a steel cage. Then again, I doubt this study was done specifically to confirm or refute the earlier experiment, but to test further hypotheses in the same area.
In my previous comment, I cited another study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9148292?dopt=Abstract) that also failed to replicate RP. That time the flaw of that replication was possible inadvertently introduced strain differences among the mice. It's always possible to find some variable that is different and therefore claim that the result isn't relevant. I'd imagine that's one big reason why replication efforts is so uncommon in the scientific community.
Btw, BK Alexander has had over 30 years on him to setup a new Rat Park, have it monitored by other scientists, and prove once and for all that his original results weren't just "a fluke."
Wikipedia allows public editing. Did you amend the incorrect claim?
It turned out that the subordinate monkeys were much more susceptible to the temptations of cocaine. In contrast, the dominant ones were able to resist its allure a lot more effectively.
The researchers also looked at the neurobiology of the monkeys. Before being socially housed, they were kept in individual cages for a couple of years. They looked at the main pleasure centre of the brain and measured the level of dopamine receptors (of the D2 type) present there. These receptors are directly stimulated by naturally occurring rewards like social activity, food, sex, and so on - but also stimulant drugs like cocaine.
All the monkeys had pretty much the same D2 receptor level when they were cooped up in single cages, with little variation. But when they were socially housed, the D2 levels of the dominant monkeys rose significantly higher; this too was associated with their lessened vulnerability to cocaine.
So it seemed that social environment can have quite the effect on the neurobiology of one's reward pathway, and potential for drug abuse (as the Rat Park experiment suggested).
On reward pathways - in human stimulant addicts you also see lower D2 receptor levels than in non-addicts , although this is lacking a comparative reading from before they were addicted, so we don't know if that's near the state they were in when they started abusing the drug. Having said that, in non-addicts there is a natural variation in D2 receptor levels, and those with less D2 enjoy stimulants a lot more , just like the subordinate, lower D2 receptor monkeys.
Unlike Rat Park, however, all the above is based on stimulants, which directly affect the aforementioned receptors. Whereas morphine takes a more indirect route, with different receptor types, so it's not quite comparable. Still, interesting to think about how much we may be slaves to our neurobiology, and our social surroundings.
I don't know that it's purely environment, but there's plenty of evidence out there that seems to suggest it's more than simply chemical dependency.
My impression was that basically the only country that uses heroin for pain relief is the UK, and even there it is basically only used in cases where addition is not an issue, e.g. terminal cancer patients.
But it is used by first responders as well:
A decent amount of air ambulances polled use diamorphine. I'm pretty sure (but unfortunately having difficulty sourcing) regular ambulances have it available as well.
It's widely used as palliative care in the UK as well, as you pointed out - but it might be worth noting that's not it's sole use, and palliative care doesn't always mean they're going to be dying soon enough that addiction wouldn't be a harmful issue to deal with.
(I heard that discussion discussed on the Adam Carolla Show from the 10th. I'm guessing it's a hot topic at the moment due to Hari promoting, I think, a book)