Reefer monkey madness

By Susan McCarthy

By Letters to the Editor

Published December 1, 2000 8:47AM (EST)

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I am a graduate student involved in drug abuse studies with squirrel monkeys. I found Susan McCarthy's article very amusing. Her description of squirrel monkeys is dead-on. Although I don't discount the research performed, I agree that the spin that has been put on this study is worrisome.

This study leads to an important model for us to study the effects of many different cannabinoids, chemicals that are increasingly important in biomedical research. This study has little bearing on the use, abuse or addictive properties of the drug or on the people who use, abuse or are addicted to it. Addiction is a term of human, not animal, consequence and saying an animal is addicted to a substance is unreasonable, since addiction is a cluster of several symptoms that are impossible for animals to display. We might be able to model addiction, but that's it.

I applaud the efforts of the reporters of Salon to continue bringing to light the bankruptcy of the ideological war on drugs. Perhaps in the near future a compassionate policy will develop that will help those who need it and leave the rest of the majority of Americans who use substances (including alcohol) responsibly alone.

-- Brett Ginsburg

I studied psychology in college for three years as a minor. Such a minuscule experimental group would have been considered statistically insignificant (especially in the absence of rigorous testing of many variables in similarly sized control groups) and hence of no scientific value.

Obviously, however, as the average newspaper editor and reporter are totally ignorant of the general rules governing statistical studies, it does seem clear that these four sad squirrel monkeys are a political bonanza for anyone who wishes to "prove scientifically" that pot is dangerous and addictive.

The fact that the same animals had been used in a cocaine habituation experiment previously would seem to vitiate and nullify any results and conclusions from this test. It is clearly an experiment with an agenda. It has a set of conclusions that the experimenters will do anything, it seems, to prove.

That ain't science in my book.

-- Martin Braun

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a pot user, but I enjoyed Susan McCarthy's article hugely. Aside from the bizarre arguments of individuals who drink alcohol regularly that it is pot that is dangerously addictive, the fact that we are willing to countenance treating animals cruelly in a manner that only oversophisticated humans can cook up is a much more soul-killing activity than all the drug dealing in the universe.

I worked with Swiss zoologist Adolf Portmann (the retired director of the Zoological Institute of the University of Basel, Switzerland) during my 1973-74 sabbatical, and he told me that he had never, ever subjected a single animal to "experiment." He further insisted that there is always a noninvasive way of checking out hunches, but that these procedures require great intelligence and much time. The goons in the name of science McCarthy describes are not too bright and very impatient for the next big breakthrough from their lab.

How do they differ from the worst of Pinochet's torturers? Stalin's? Hitler's?

-- Richard Carter

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