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Drug Dependancy Supposes Status?

By MisterQueue in Op-Ed
Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 09:42:04 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

According to CNN they have found more possibilities linking a drug addiction to a particular person. They believe it to be directly linked to one's status in a given society based upon the study of a group of monkeys. This brings interesting questions to mind as to what, if anything, this could mean for we hairless apes.

For those of you who do not wish to read the article I shall sum up, if you did read it just skip this first paragraph and go on to the next. Basically, they took a group of 20 chimps and studied them for over a year. Then they split them into groups of 5, and over time a hierarchy emerged. They were also allowed to self induce cocaine at any time they wished. Over the period, the top five monkeys (I suppose one could say alpha males), were not using the cocaine while those lower on the totem pole were using in large quantities. This is thought to be linked to a higher amount of dopamine in the brain of the alpha males. (Dopamine produces feelings of achievement and euphoria, and is something which several controlled substances produce in the brain.)

The part that most grabbed me in the story, is where this will all lead. They make referrence to the possibility of it being of a similar situation in humans. (We have hierarchies just the same as the monkeys do, with alpha and omega males/females and the like.) If, humans are susceptible to the same inclinations, then what is to stop some semblance of prejudice against "wallflowers" as the article calls it?

I myself, being a potential wallflower I suppose, would hate to be assumed more liable for drug addiction based solely on that quality. Who knows, maybe it would manifest itself as them measuring the dopamine levels in those withdrawn or solitary in order to discern who might be most likely to fall prey to such an "evil". Would wallflower then become a liability on health insurance? Could your insurance company refuse to pay for drug addiction treatment based on the fact that you were already "predisposed" to it? Granted these seem like rather reactionary and far-fetched possibilities, but then again, when they started finding specific genes linked to diseases, insurance companies were there to cash in as fast as they could.

I doubt it will come to that, but it interested me to ponder it. The main qualm I have with the study though, is that they seem to be taking the cause and effect ratio to closely in this case. Is it not possible that those with a certain personality are just naturally withdrawn and hence that personality also leads to drug abuse? Is it also possible that a lack of dopamine to begin with could cause said personalities? It just seemed to me to make the jump too quickly. (I'd like to see some concrete numbers before I would agree of course, Monkey A when in group 1 had this much dopamine but after the hierarchy was established it dropped to this much..etc etc.) But then again, it's CNN, what can you expect?

This article raised some curious thoughts, but to me, the most important is...Where are these Scientists getting all their good coke and why in the world are they just giving it away to the monkeys!?!...err...nevermind..ignore that...



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Drug Addiction Causes?
o Socially Learned 18%
o Genetically Susceptible 9%
o A Mixture of the two? 65%
o If my mom hadn't put that crack in my bottle.... 6%

Votes: 32
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by MisterQueue

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Drug Dependancy Supposes Status? | 26 comments (17 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
Junkies and Rock Stars (3.88 / 9) (#3)
by jabber on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 03:45:32 PM EST

I would buy the conclusions of the study if people whom society sees as successful did not fall prey to substance abuse as often as they do. If only junkies and bums did drugs, I could see that a failure to achieve might possibly drive one to 'dull the pain' with drugs, alcohol, what have you..

But we have lots of 'successful' people using drugs and binging on booze. Why?

I think we need a further study in which the Alpha apes would be so far ahead of the others that they would not need to put any effort into maintaining their status. If their position in their social hierarchy was unquestionable, might they also indulge in drugs, having nothing to lose in doing so?

Addiction and substance (ab)use is much more complicated than this study might suggest. Even if there are social hierarchy aspects to the behavior, these are likely to be of much less significance in humans than in apes.

[TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

Why? (none / 0) (#22)
by WormGuy on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 05:33:48 PM EST

Perhaps because we are all tied to the wheels of a remorseless machine, and status has far less value than it appears.

[ Parent ]
Missing the point (slightly) (4.25 / 8) (#4)
by mech9t8 on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 04:07:40 PM EST

Is it not possible that those with a certain personality are just naturally withdrawn and hence that personality also leads to drug abuse? Is it also possible that a lack of dopamine to begin with could cause said personalities?

The article states that the level of dopamine receptors went up after the monkeys were put into the social groups and became dominant.

I think concentrating on the "dominance" part is a red herring - the key is to concentrate on the level of happiness. In a monkey's social situation where all else is equal, the quality of life of the dominant monkey is going to be better - better food, more social attention, more sex, etc etc etc.

Our civilisation is far more complicated than that - our social groups are infinitely larger and more complex - dominance over a small group has very little to do with one's overall quality of life and happiness.

The key here, I think, is susceptability to drug problems is related to dopamine receptor levels, and dopamine receptor levels are related to quality of life. The "dominance" part is just an easy way to guage the quality of life of the monkeys in an controlled, all-else-being-equal environment.

(Here's another article on the story on Yahoo)


really? (3.00 / 2) (#16)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 04:35:27 AM EST

dominance over a small group has very little to do with one's overall quality of life and happiness

A glance at ten randomly selected posts from kuro5hin would certainly not tend to support that assertion.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

It's pretty hard to tell how happy someone is... (none / 0) (#21)
by mech9t8 on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 01:43:57 PM EST

...just by looking at kuro5hin posts. ;)

Dominance over a small group may lead to happiness, but it may also lead to far more stress, pressure, isolation, etc etc etc. (Being dominant is probably better than being dominated, but it's possible to not be dominated while still not being dominant.)

Perhaps "very little" was an exagerration, but many people get so caught up in the quest for more power, money, etc. that they miss the things that will actually make them happy. Perhaps it's simply a matter of misunderstanding real dominance vs. the appearance of dominance, but simply being the boss or being rich is no guarantee of actual happiness.

[ Parent ]
Or it could be... (4.00 / 5) (#6)
by TheMarquis on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 04:26:14 PM EST

That drug addiction is caused by having to endure belligerent assholes and all this proves is that one in four male monkeys is a belligerent asshole.

Still it is interesting (and a little frightening) that our social environment can have concrete mental effects. One wonders what other aspects of our social life have such effects.

What does this mean for groups like AA? Are they really driving people further into addiction? Or does the group structure prevent this? Or (and I think this most likely) is it the chaos of different groups have different effects?

Note: I am not a psychologist or an alcoholic so I have no idea how (why or if) AA works.

AA (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by wiredog on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 08:58:20 AM EST

Well, I am a member of AA. Been in AA for 12 years, sober for 7. The research doesn't mean much for AA. We don't recruit people, they come to us (often after the judge, wife, husband, parents, etc, say "or else!").

Group structure. Hmmmm. Well, each group does have a structure, as does AA as a whole, but it is minimal. The leadership rotates, or is supposed to. The problem with being a "leader" in AA is that it can go to ones head, which often leads to a return to drinking. AA's structure, on a local level, is intentionally chaotic. We have a lot of fun.

BTW, AA has a website.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]

Probably true (4.25 / 4) (#8)
by nobbystyles on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 04:30:43 PM EST

<P>But it relates to the status of country rather than personal status. If you read the diaries here on K5 then you will see that most Brits are drug addicts of some description. Whereas most Usians wouldn't need to pollute their bodies with such substances.</P>
<P>My theory which relates to this ground breaking research is that the Brits being in beta status country need to get over the loss of Empire by taking lots of drugs and the yanks being much more secure in their country's status as global hegemon only need to drink milk as evidenced in their diaries. QED...</P>

Monkey madness (4.66 / 6) (#9)
by truth versus death on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 04:32:13 PM EST

Remember what happened last time we introduced cocaine to a small group of monkeys? They became marijuana addicts.

Also published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"any erection implies consent"-fae
[ Trim your Bush ]
Are you joking, or was that just a typo? (none / 0) (#13)
by pfaffben on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 10:46:23 PM EST

Why would monkeys given cocaine become marijuana addicts?

[ Parent ]
Why respond at all? (4.66 / 3) (#14)
by sonovel on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 12:24:05 AM EST

Why respond at all if you aren't going to read the link?

It is pretty obvious you didn't.

[ Parent ]
Well, obviously... (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by mech9t8 on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 01:33:40 PM EST

...he's a squirrel monkey. ;)

[ Parent ]
Human Social Order (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by Woundweavr on Wed Jan 23, 2002 at 07:59:35 PM EST

Perhaps the corrolary between primative primate social order and that of human social order is more purpose then power. Those who are in the dominant position often do become addicted, both to alchohol and harder drugs. Especially susceptible are the children of successful businessmen and dilletant heirs whose wealth seperates them from society and guides their early life in paths they might not otherwise desire. The same could be said of the especially poor, their economics guide them on unfulfilling paths. Even the middleclass who become addicted tend to be those who are especially unenthusiastic about where their life is going.

It seems to me that a majority of those who do become addicted because their own lives are unfulfilling in some way. Maybe the ratrace isn't for them, or they are having family/romance/social problems. Drugs act as a way to ignore this lack of purpose, or as a purpose in itself.

Just a guess really

whoa (2.50 / 2) (#15)
by streetlawyer on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 04:34:02 AM EST

Especially susceptible are the children of successful businessmen

Children of ambitious, strong-willed, successful fathers (or indeed mothers) are almost by definition not in a "dominant" position in their lives in the relevant sense.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Thats what I said (none / 0) (#19)
by Woundweavr on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 12:06:23 PM EST

That's the problem I was pointing out. Although they are rich and thus in a more dominant position socioeconomically, they are not personally in control of their lives because they are dominated by their parents and by expectations. Although they have what is to our society liquid power, they act as if they were on the lower strata of the pack in this case.

[ Parent ]
Let's say... (5.00 / 1) (#18)
by nutate on Thu Jan 24, 2002 at 10:26:42 AM EST

If I was put in a cage with 4 other males, and a couple of them are dominant (which means rapists who can overpower me, at least from what I know of (bonnet) macaques), I could see myself using cocaine to cope. I would prefer marijuana or self-immolation, but coke would do.

All the more reason to put people into prison and jail for cocaine posession.

In my judeo-christian informed world-view, I would rather be the high rape-victim than the arrogant rapist.

What is perhaps more interesting than the (ab)use of cocaine in these situations, is the addiction to it. It seems to me like the people I know who have been addicted to cocaine have run the gamut from dominant to submissive. Perhaps on the inside they all felt dominated by like their parents or something. At any rate, people need psychiatric help for those issues. Sadly psychiatric help comes at a price and isn't as fast acting as yay.


Celebrities (none / 0) (#25)
by linuxhead154 on Fri Jan 25, 2002 at 11:53:47 AM EST

These results don't address celebrities like Robert Downey Jr. Who are successful, but seem to want more, maybe chimps don't expierence greed or paranoia, or all those other non-biological emotions that drive humans and people.
I have wondered the world, and searched for the answer to it all. And then I discovered I never physically left, just my mind.
Drug Dependancy Supposes Status? | 26 comments (17 topical, 9 editorial, 0 hidden)
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