PCRM Seeks to End Animal Drug Experiments
Can shocking mice through their feet for 15 minutes at a time help us learn whether marital stress can lead to alcoholism? Surprisingly enough, millions of tax dollars are being spent on “stressing” animals, giving them drugs and alcohol, and infecting them with diseases in order to study substance abuse problems that are unique to the human species.
When given $4.3 million to study how chronic stress might lead to alcoholism, researchers decided to “stress” mice and then give them access to alcohol. To create stress, the mice were shocked, forced to swim through a water maze, and deprived of food. In other substance abuse experiments, monkeys were trained to drink ethanol, mice were exposed to nicotine, and squirrel monkeys and baboons were given human-sized doses of Ecstasy.
Many scientists agree that such studies are not a productive way to unlock the causes and cures for a uniquely human phenomenon like drug abuse.
Researchers have many superior alternatives to animal experiments when studying substance abuse in humans. Neuropsychological testing devices and CT scans have been used to identify brain changes, memory gaps, and language deficits in drug-abusing humans. These types of problems would never have been detected in an animal.
Researchers are also working to find the causes of addiction with human subjects. For example, researchers at Washington University are studying 2,000 cocaine addicts and their relatives to assess individual and familial factors in the development of substance abuse. Florida International University is assessing the effectiveness of a school-based program in reducing alcohol and drug abuse in certain adolescents.
We don't need more animal experiments to demonstrate that stress or pain can lead to addiction. To learn more about drug and alcohol abuse, we need to address the human factors of abuse more directly. Ethical human studies are far more informative than studies on animals.