A change of thinking on addiction, not just drugs, has arisen in recent years, with addiction being viewed as not really being caused by drugs at all, but by pain, trauma and various social issues. Professor Bruce K. Alexander a Canadian psychologist ran a series of experiments known as Rat Park in the 1970s, where rats were studied while being given the option to self administer drugs. Alexander found that rats in isolation would quickly develop drug addiction behaviours often to the point of death. But when the animals were given activities, things to do, meaning in life in the form of a “rat park”, none of them showed these signs of addiction, and merely self administered the drugs casually on occasion.
Prior to the Rat Park experiments Vietnam had turned people understanding of addiction on its head. 15% of US troops in Vietnam were reported to be heroin addicts, but then came back from Vietnam and didn’t continue their habit. The drug problem was maybe a symptom the wider problem of soldiers exposure to war, horrific circumstances make substances like herion much more appealing, as you don’t want to be present in your life as your life has become too much of a painful place to be. Alexander confirmed this in Rat Park finding that “today’s flood of addiction is occurring because our hyperindividualistic, hypercompetitive, frantic, crisis-ridden society makes most people feel social[ly] and culturally isolated” , and his work has changed modern thinking on addiction altogether with prominent figures in the such fields advocating for medical treatment rather than punishment. This amendment is a step towards that, decriminalisation.