Fostering Community Involvement
We can’t address the troubling issues within our community such as drug addiction (especially concerning heroin), grandparents raising children, homelessness and more without really listening to the community and investing in our community and supporting families. Strong community involvement fosters support for families and creates an environment for lower crime rates, better work environments, and lower drug use.
The Rat Park Addiction Study
The Rat Park Study
Why are we talking about rats in the middle of making points about community involvement? Because The Rat Park Addiction Study is one of the most important studies on addiction, and addiction is a very important issue in our community!
In 1978, Canadian psychologist Bruce K. Alexander conducted an experiment that revolutionized the understanding of drug addictions. With funding from Simon Fraser University, Alexander and his colleagues built a large colony to house rats, with more than 200 times the floor space of a standard lab rat cage. This “Rat Park” experiment culminated in the leading breakthrough of the time: the underlying connection between a person’s environment and addiction.
Details of The Rat Park Study
The goal of Alexander’s Experiment was to prove that drugs do not cause addiction, but that a person’s living condition does. He wanted to refute other studies that connected opiate addiction in laboratory rats to addictive properties within the drug itself.
Alexander constructed Rat Park with wheels and balls for play, plenty of food and mating space, and 16-20 rats of both sexes mingling with one another. He tested a variety of theories using different experiments with Rat Park to show that the rat’s environment played the largest part in whether a rat became addicted to opiates or not.
In the experiment, the social rats had the choice to drink fluids from one of two dispensers. One had plain tap water, and the other had a morphine solution.
The scientists ran a variety of experiments to test the rats’ willingness to consume the morphine solution compared to rats in solitary confinement.
They found that:
- The caged rats ingested much larger doses of the morphine solution – about 19 times more than Rat Park rats in one of the experiments.
- The Rat Park rats consistently resisted the morphine water, preferring plain water.
- Even rats in cages that were fed nothing but morphine water for 57 days chose plain water when moved to Rat Park, voluntarily going through withdrawal.
- No matter what they tried, Alexander and his team produced nothing that resembled addiction in rats that were housed in Rat Park.
Based on the study, the team concluded that drugs themselves do not cause addictions. Rather, a person’s environment feeds an addiction. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, and lack of control based on unsatisfactory living conditions make a person dependent on substances. Under normal living conditions, people can resist drug and alcohol addiction. (Study summary credit: Summit Behavioral Health.)
And Back to Community Involvement...
How we plan today affects our future for generations to come.
As The Rat Park Study proved very well, addictions are deeply rooted in not just the drug itself, but also many environmental factors. One of my main goals as Judge Executive will be to bring Grant County back to the home town I grew up in - that includes increasing budgets and allocations for Parks and Recreation and increasing family and community activities, bringing back traditions important to our residents such as movie nights, County Cook Out, Senior Bash and more.
Currently, our parks are green pastures with a fence around them. Our children don't have many options for inclement weather. I will work personally with our Parks and Recreation department to bring changes to reality in order to provide you a community that you can enjoy and our children and our children's children can grow up in.
Also, not many people know or acknowledge that our community needs assistance to help those in our County in need – from food pantries to free kitchens and more. As Judge Executive, I would work with existing community support organizations to create things that are sorely needed, such as:
- a local area computerized database to make sure that those in need get help from places closest to them and limit abuse of current systems.
- support resources within the community to assist in job training and temporary transportation for those getting on their feet or recovering from financial hardships that live and work in our County.
- foster alliances with national volunteer programs that will assist us in funding with local and federal grants while providing community service opportunities and programs for our Parks and Recreation department.
- join with other closeby communities to create or build homeless shelters for men, women, children, families and elderly, as well as veterans. We also need to make sure that homeless families are able to stay together and that parents are able to get and accept help for themselves and their children without fear of losing their children or having them placed in foster care. Our elderly and veterans are living in their vehicles, going through dumpsters for food, and needing help. These issues happen every day in our County.
What's your opinion on this? I'd love to hear from you!