Further Reading


The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, July 5, 2000

Little Drunken Rats

Stanton Peele


I just read this alarming study:

Drunken Rats Go on Spree, Develop Cancerous Lesions!

Researchers at the University of Manitoba released results of an alarming study, in which two groups of rats — sober rats and drunken rats — interacted freely in a common space.

The researchers confined one group of rats in a home cage with little barrels of beer with spigots. The rats quickly learned to release the spigots and lap up the beer. These rats developed beer bellies, started smoking little cigarillos left in the cage, and soon sported tattoos (researchers were at a loss to figure out how the rats were able to get tattoos in their cages).

Another group of rats left in a cage where the only beverages were water and fruit juices developed an entirely different profile. Excellent students, they dressed in Lord Fauntleroy suits and refused the cigarillos left suggestively around for them.

The most remarkable results, however, occurred when the two groups of rats were allowed to interact in a common area. The beer-swilling rats upended the Ferris wheels and other rodent toys in this cage and intimidated the sober rats, who hid in the corners of the cage. The tattooed and inebriated rats developed little rat swaggers, reminiscent, researchers said, of the Cowardly Lion in the movie, "The Wizard of Oz."

After several weeks, however, the inebriated rats developed lesions, tumors, and other cancerous growths. Thus, they increasingly became incapacitated in their interactions in the common cage with the virtuous rats, who soon became dominant!

In a fascinating side study, the experimenters put 2.5% beer in the little rat beer kegs. The drinking rats split into two groups. One group drank the beer for several days, then refused to touch the stuff. The other group drank twice as much. Remarkably, one of the rats that quit drinking altogether made a small sign announcing, "Drinkers Repent!" and started parading among the drinking rats.

Although researchers were reluctant to generalize the results to humans, Dr. Snodgrass, principal investigator (and winner of a lifetime achievement award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) surmised: "I think this research shows that organisms with free access to alcohol are forever damned to misbehavior and a horrible death, while those who are protected from drinking excel in society and live long, prosperous lives."

Some researchers, admittedly, have criticized this work, saying that, although it is highly provocative, it does not conclusively demonstrate that human beings with access to beer will become hooligans, smoke, and develop cancer. However, I find this research program is highly consistent with the research that Roberta Ferrence and Robin Room and other researchers have pointed out, and, thus, I tend to take it quite seriously, and think it deserves to be disseminated broadly.

Failure to Replicate

Unfortunately for the study I referenced above that provided strong biological evidence for the proposition that unlimited access to alcohol leads to thuggish behavior and death, I have just uncovered a follow-up study that failed to replicate these findings. This new study is particularly relevant given Robin Room's discussion of how the Belgians obtusely fail to see that the solution to the problem of marauding gangs of English soccer thugs in their country is to reduce the alcohol content of local beer.

The research involved the same design as the earlier study, but this time with French-speaking Belgian rats. In this study, the rats in the unlimited beer access condition poured the beer from the kegs into little glasses and sipped the beer throughout the day. When placed together with the dry rats, the drinking rats sat at little tables, reading small pieces of paper they picked up from the lining of the cage, and smoking Gauloise cigarettes. When placed at the same table with nondrinking rats, the drinking rats vocalized endlessly in incomprehensible rat chirpings that the dry rats seemed unable to comprehend. Eventually, the dry rats fell off their stools, due seemingly to a combination of clogging of their arteries and the effects of listening to the drinking rats.

The comments of the lead author of the study, F. LaFoutille, are noteworthy, "It seems that the effects of not drinking in this Belgian study were as deadly as drinking in the American one, and that the dangers to nondrinking rats of listening to the verbalizations of drinking rats was as great as, in the prior experiment, that of being beaten by the drinking rats."