Today while I ran I thought about lab rats. There is an article I read about cocaine addiction and a scientist that decided to experiment. He wrote about a well known study where a rat was placed alone in a cage with two bottles of water, well almost. One bottle was just water and the other was laced with cocaine. The rat ALWAYS went to the cocaine water until it died.

The scientist questioned the validity of the finding and the assumption by the norm was that the rat was drinking the cocaine water because it was addicted. This scientist thought, “Maybe the rat isn’t addicted. Maybe he is just pissed and unhappy that he is stuck in a cage without any friends.”

To test his thesis he built a luxury rat palace. It was a paradise of mazes and colorful engagements to stimulate the rats. This time he put a group of rats together with only two bottles to choose from. One had water, the other had cocaine. This time the rat chose the clean water and so did his friends. Don’t get me wrong, they all enjoyed a dabble of high, but in the end the choice was unanimously sober.

Next he removed a rat and replicated the first experiment. He put the rat in an isolated cage, without any friends, and with the same choice: COCAINE or WATER? The rat went to the cocaine and the scientist let him until he assumed the rat had become a strung out addict. He then removed the rat and put him back in the luxury  palace with his friends. This is the part that floors me and I will admit I have not stopped thinking about it the weeks its been since reading.

We assume that addicts will always choose the drug, almost like an evil spirit is said to posses someone. Just yesterday I spoke with a friend briefly, “How have you been?” I asked, knowing of her circumstance.

Her immediate answer, “I am great. I have eleven years of sobriety now. I’m leaving for another support retreat this weekend.”

I stood there wondering why the cleanest and most sober person I know is the identification of ADDICT? Then I remember the steps and that she was told that addicts need to come to terms with the fact that they will forever be that way, “Addiction is in my genetics.”

These are the things I think about when I run. I think about brain washing. I worry about the concrete finality we are presenting our public with the labels we make them wear.

“People that want to do drugs and drink alcohol, but refrain, are addicts.”‘

“People who do drink and enjoy drugs are not addicts, unless a problem has been identified.”

Let me get back to the rats, because I left off on a tangent shorty after I announced my amazement. Do you remember that strung out rat I told you about. The rat who was allowed to become an addict by isolation and inactivity. The scientist returned that rat to a luxury palace with friends and more of the drug should he choose it. The same two bottles were there, one with only water, one with cocaine. The rat was already hopped up on drugs and still he returned to clean water when the environment was loving and rich with opportunity for a quality life. He was never addicted. We just believed he was.

I’m thinking about that right now. I’m thinking that I prefer to be a rat without a label and if I need to be in a cage I hope it is filled with ideas that make sense.

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