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Addiction Re-examined: The View from
Rat Park

Photo of Dr. Bruce Alexander
Dr. Bruce Alexander

Dr. Bruce Alexander will explain his controversial theory that addiction is an adaptation to social and cultural dislocation rather than a disease on March 30 at 2 p.m. in the Meagher Theatre. 


Based on his experiment entitled "The View from Rat Park," Dr. Alexander's proposition is that society's extreme emphasis on individualism and competition causes widespread social and cultural isolation. When such isolation becomes chronic, he believes that some people are torn from "the normal fabric of life" and "concoct the best substitutes that they can." Addiction, he argues, is one of these substitutes.


His lecture includes an explanation of his Rat Park experiment in which caged and isolated rats consumed available drugs while rats in a park-like setting with company did not. The program is free and open to the public.


Alexander has counseled hard-core heroin addicts, conducted psychopharmacological research, supervised field research on cocaine for the World Health Organization, and interviewed university students about their drug and process addictions.


He has published three books: Peaceful Measures: Canada’s Way Out of the War on Drugs (University of Toronto Press, 1990), The Globalization of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit (Oxford University Press, 2008), and A History of Psychology in Western Civilization (Cambridge University Press, 2015, co-author Curt Shelton). 


Since retiring from Simon Fraser University as Professor Emeritus in 2005, Bruce Alexander has lectured frequently in Canada and Europe. He was awarded the Sterling Prize for Controversy in 2007.