It's quite possible that we know as much about drug addiction in animals as we do about addiction in humans. Animals readily become addicted to a wide variety of substances and suffer some of the same consequences that people do as a result. There is a lot to be learned about addiction and how it works, and a great deal of what we already know has been derived from studies conducted with animals. But whether you are for or against this practice, the fact remains that addiction is a clinical, progressive disease that left untreated is often fatal. And because millions of people die as a result of addiction or alcoholism every year, understanding how this condition affects animals can help to teach us a great deal about ourselves.

Addiction is not a condition that is exclusive to humans, despite what some might argue. In fact, the famous Pavlov and his Drooling Dogs was, in reality, a study about addiction. This is because the brain is programmed to create associations regarding pleasurable experiences and create a compulsive drive in the individual to seek out those pleasurable experiences again and again. Some have theorized that this is an evolutionary tactic that is outdated but still very effective – meaning that if something feels good or tastes good it's likely to benefit us and we should continue to do it. So when Pavlov's dogs got to eat every time they heard a bell, their brains made an association that: bell = pleasure. Physiological changes occurred as a result in the form of drooling.

The same is true in humans, although we tend to have a much wider array of things that we become addicted to. Physiological changes can easily be seen in addicts and alcoholics and include physical signs and symptoms of drug abuse, behavioral changes and drug-seeking, and emotional changes. However, many have argued that the primary difference between humans and animals when it comes to drug addiction is that animals do not self-administer drugs. This is not the case, as animals like rats and chimps do indeed self-administer. In most cases it only requires one or two exposures to a drug that causes pleasure or euphoria, after which animals will self-administer when able to do so. George F. Koob wrote the following regarding this in a report for the ACNP:

"It is amply clear that animals and humans will readily self-administer drugs in the nondependent state and that drugs have powerful reinforcing properties in that animals will perform many different tasks to obtain drugs. The drugs that have positive reinforcing effects correspond well with the drugs that have high abuse potential in humans."

Despite the fact that a great deal of the evidence supporting drug addiction in animals has been acquired from laboratory reports, substance abuse does occur in the wild and therefore it's likely that addiction does as well. There are a number of bird species that purposefully eat euphoric substances and then perform ritualistic and bizarre dances, there are moose that get drunk on fermented fruit, and other mammals have been known to consume hallucinogens.

But regardless of whether human or animal, the results are always the same: deterioration of physical and mental health.

If this describes you or someone you love, take action now and speak to an expert at our Florida Drug Rehab Center – widely considered one of the most successful in the country.

Click here to check your insurance, ask a question or request a call back from Recovery First's drug rehab.

Author's Bio: 

Ms. Javis is a former attorney and cirotta judge in the western Sahara. She is a prolific writer and editor and spends her free time writing from her mountain home in the Congo.