The so-called "Rat Park" study conducted in the late 1970s indicated that lonely rats get drug addicted more easily than social ones.

Does anyone know if there are more recent studies about the topic? About drug addictions or other addictions?


Alexander, B. K., Coambs, R. B., & Hadaway, P. F. (1978). The effect of housing and gender on morphine self-administration in rats. Psychopharmacology, 58(2), 175-179. doi:10.1007/BF00426903

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    $\begingroup$ I am in no way an expert on the matter, but it just feels quite contrary to me. Usually social interactions are what creates addictions in the first place like smoking\alcohol\drugs. I also think that lonely people have more time on self reflection and therefore can root our their addictions more easily. $\endgroup$
    – Rusty
    Dec 23, 2014 at 12:28
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    $\begingroup$ Same here - no expert, but contrary to @Rusty, I would say that social context can sustain addiction and most notably induce relapse as folks tend to go back to their old and familiar scene after rehab. I think the onset of addiction in itself can happen to all classes of people in all kinds of (a)social situations. But again, this is just a comment. $\endgroup$
    – AliceD
    Dec 23, 2014 at 13:46
  • $\begingroup$ I am not sure about a contact between lonelyness and addiction. Some social group can be bad for individual's mental satisfaction, thats why the individual can be pressed to addiction. Or a reason can be the lack of the roof to own culture and community. As after destroying Russian socialism, Russians started to use growly alcohol. For another example, native American Indicans are addicted to alcohol because of own tradition being destroyed. I think addiction depends more on the general satisifaction of life including social, cultural and other factors. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2014 at 0:45
  • $\begingroup$ This makes sense in term of how one distribute his/her time "socializing" consumes time and so are most addictions, its easier for a "lonely person" to find time to be addicted to things than one surranded by his/her peers $\endgroup$
    – Gugg
    Jan 26, 2015 at 19:47
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisStronks I agree with the peer context strongly linked to relapse to addictive behaviors. This is why a lot of addictive games strongly push the "Social" element to them. I would say that ALL examples of incredibly addictive video games are social in nature. For example farmville or online MMORPGs. It's possible to quit these games, but when multiple friends are playing them, they will continuously pull each other back into the game. $\endgroup$
    – Alex Stone
    Jan 28, 2015 at 18:13

1 Answer 1


First of all, the rat experience is not so relevant to a great extent to the question. Animals can't reason (they can't have their own belief system and plan for the future).

However, there is some similarity with rats and humans. Rats are social creatures too. It could be that loneliness causes bad feelings and a distraction technique could be the drugs to which they got addicted. That might explain why the rats got addicted to the drugs. For animals is all about stimuli, they don't have a belief system. I think that even if a social rat saw the drug and tried it once and a few more times it would get addicted. Same for people, drugs can be as part of a recreational/social activity.

Another comment, is that loneliness is basically the feeling of stress (because it is an inner feeling of unhappiness and a mix of anxiety, all which brings the person to rationalize that he is lonely). I would argue that since loneliness creates stress, to relief stress the individual turns to an avoidant stress coping strategy which is drugs consumption.

My account is one, there are more accounts of that relationship that other people add. But I struggle to bring any other relationships that will not be seen as being too much based correlation.

Also note that there are different mentality behind different psychology. Addiction of gambling is not the same as being addicted of drugs. In the former, the addict is addicted to win and in the latter the addict is addicted to the drug that kills the mental/physiological pain s/he has.

Some research: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924977X03001779

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    $\begingroup$ There is need for a few more citations to back up claims made in this answer. One example is saying that animals cannot reason because they cannot plan for the future is incorrect in my mind when you have hibernatory animals and the like preparing for winter. As for having no belief system, I think that can be proved wrong too. There is a lot of opinion in this answer such as "It could be that loneliness causes bad feeling" and "loneliness is basically the feeling of stress" can I see citations to back these up please? $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2019 at 5:53

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