Why I Use Laboratory Animals in Drug Research

By Perception Addict · Nov 3, 2007 · ·
  1. Perception Addict

    A UCLA Scientist Targeted by Animal Rights Militants Defends Her Research on Addiction and the Brain.

    For years, I have watched with growing concern as my UCLA colleagues have been subjected to increasing harassment, violence and threats by animal rights extremists. In the last 15 months, these attempts at intimidation have included the placement of a Molotov cocktail-type device at a colleague's home and another under a colleague's car -- thankfully, they didn't ignite -- as well as rocks thrown through windows, phone and e-mail threats, banging on doors in the middle of the night and, on several occasions, direct confrontations with young children.

    Then, several weeks ago, an article in the San Francisco Chronicle about the work I have been doing to understand and treat nicotine addition among adolescents informed readers that some of my research is done on primates. I was instantly on my guard. Would I be the next victim? Would the more extremist elements of the animal rights movement now turn their sights on me?

    The answer came this week when the Animal Liberation Front claimed responsibility for vandalism that caused between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of damage to my home after extremists broke a window and inserted a garden hose, flooding the interior. Later, in a public statement addressed to me, the extremists said they had been torn between flooding my house or setting it afire. Maybe I should feel lucky.

    Having come to the United States as the child of Holocaust survivors who had lost almost everything, I appreciate that perhaps "only in America" could I have fulfilled my dream of becoming a biomedical scientist, supported in doing research to reduce human suffering. But it is difficult for me to understand why the same country that was founded on the idea of freedom for all gives rise to an organization like the Animal Liberation Front, a shadowy group identified by the FBI as a domestic terrorism threat, which threatens the safety of researchers engaged in animal studies that are crucial to moving medicine forward.

    I have devoted my career to understanding how nicotine, methamphetamine and other drugs can hijack brain chemistry and leave the affected individual at the mercy of his or her addiction. My personal connection to addiction is rooted in the untimely death of my father, who died of complications of nicotine dependence. My work on the neurobiology of addiction has spanned three decades of my life - -- most of this time as a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health. To me, nothing could be more important than solving the mysteries of addiction and learning how we can restore a person's control over his or her own life. Addiction robs young people of their futures, destroys families and places a tremendous burden on society.

    Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans. Our animal studies address the effects of chronic drug use on brain functions, such as decision-making and self-control, that are impaired in human addicts. We are also testing potential treatments, and all of our studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure humane care.

    While monkeys receive drugs in the laboratory, they do not become "addicted" in the same sense that humans become addicted. Still, we are able to see how changes in brain chemistry alter the way the brain works -- knowledge that is vital to the design of effective medications.

    My colleagues and I place a huge value on the welfare of our research subjects. We constantly strive to minimize the risk to them; however, a certain amount of risk is necessary to provide us with the information we need in a rigorously scientific manner. Since the incident at my house, our research has gotten a lot of attention. Some anti-smoking groups have raised questions about the fact that our work was funded by Philip Morris USA. Is it moral to allow the tobacco industry to fund research on addiction? My view is that the problem of tobacco dependence is enormous, and the resources available for research on the problem are limited. It would, therefore, be immoral to decline an opportunity to increase our knowledge about addiction and develop new treatments for quitting smoking, especially when teens are involved. Few people are untouched by the scourge of addiction in their friends or family. It is through work like ours that the understanding of addiction expands and gives rise to hope that we can help people like my father live longer, healthier lives.

    Thousands of other scientists use laboratory animals in other research, giving hope to those afflicted with a wide variety of ailments. Already, one scientist at UCLA has announced that he will not pursue potentially important studies involving how the brain receives information from the retina, for fear of the violence that animal rights radicals might visit on his family. We must not allow these extremists to stop important research that advances the human condition.

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    The fact that she does not understand reveals all one needs to know about her unethical views. One would think the claim of any ties to Holocaust survivors would alleviate her myopia.
  2. FuBai
    Her views on drugs are, perhaps, misplaced. However, her views on animal testing are bang on. The Animal Liberation Front is a more worrying and immoral cause than that which Al Qaeda pursues. I can understand how any why Muslims can become radicalised, but people who fire bomb homes over an animal are far more reprehensible.
  3. Psych0naut
    I can understand both. Animals and humans are equal IMO, they are both living beings, who both feel pain. I don't think just because we are more intelligent and superior beings, we have the right to hurt animals for our own cause. It's plain sick what is sometimes done to these animals.
  4. Mint boi
    I do agree that this is true.
    But to be honest its ridiculous how some animal rights activists latch onto the idea that all animal testing involves horrific acts of mutilation ect. In the town where swim lives there are frequently activist groups to be seen on the streets petitioning people to sign up for their cause, using shock tactics; pictures of dogs, cats, monkeys ect being basically tortured by "scientists".

    They portray the image that this is the norm in labs where animal testing goes on but thats just not the case. I have first hand experience with working in labs where animal testing is sometimes used and in all of my experiences the animals were well cared for, fed frequently, got plenty of attention and were never subjected to anything like the horrid things we are told go on in labs.

    Any drugs or chemicals that are used in animal testing are at the end of the research period and are basically ready for human use. In my experience with the matter anyway.

    But then again there are always one sicko who'll somehow get a grant to put a monkey in a cage and subject it to electric shocks till its insane then kill it to look at its brain.

    EDIT: might add here that I have worked in labs where animal testing is sometimes used, never actually partaken in animal testing.
  5. Kodi
    I do agree that the AFL is extreme and what they do is not the proper way to go about things.

    On the other hand, if I put my AFL shirt on and think like them this bit stands out

    "[FONT=Arial,Helvetica] Animal studies allow us to test potential treatments without confounding factors, such as prior drug use and other experiences that complicate human studies. Even more important, they allow us to test possibly life-saving treatments before they are considered safe to test in humans. Our animal studies address the effects of chronic drug use on brain functions, such as decision-making and self-control, that are impaired in human addicts. We are also testing potential treatments, and all of our studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure humane care."

    I am not a fan of animal research myself. Im of the opinion that animals and humans are equal, its just that animals cannot consent to being studied like that. So if the studies comply with federal laws designed to ensure human care, use humans then.

    She also says the part about prior drug use. That is incredibly vague, and if the only complicating factors are prior drug use, thats what screening is for. And if they do develop some new thing, whats to say the FDA doesnt instantly market it and the thing has some adverse reactions to those who used drugs before or still do??

    I bet the FDA then says, you're fault....drugs are illegal, sorry.

    All in all, do the damned studies on humans, pay them some money and get their consent. If something fucks up, they knew the risk they were taking.
  6. allyourbase
    humans are animals, as a species of great ape we shouldnt deserve any more or less protections than we grant the other living creatures around us. such testing could just as easily be done with electrostimulated necrotic tissues, there is no reason to use live animals in "addiction research" (unless those live animals = people). the test results garnered from using animals would be disengenuous at best, not many species of animal have the same physiological tools to cope with psychoactive substances or their addictive properties, and it also leaves out the most important issue when dealing with addiction: the addict's ability to reason.
  7. Psych0naut
    Very well said, and one very important thing I forgot which you mentioned. Maybe even the most important part of addiction is mental addiction. Even though one has abstained from say heroin, the thought of it will probaply still be yelling in the back of ones mind. The majority of drugs are mentally addictive, but not physically. Humans comprehend the mental part of addiction in a much different way than any primate or other animal does. Mental addiction in human beings is something which can only be effectively studied on humans, not animals.
  8. FuBai
    I disagree. Without animal testing our drugs and products will run a higher risk of serious fault - even with all of our technology, most scientists still say that animal testing is a necessity in approximating the potential harms of any new product, and is not re-placeable through current alternatives. Without animal testing it also would be nigh-on impossible to calculate LD50s. No one is claiming that testing on animals will assure its success on humans, but in most cases it gives an accurate enough approximation for it to be not only useful but essential in the protection of human life. Looking at addiction in animals has enough of a bearing on human reactions for it to be relevant in assessing addiction patterns without getting humans hooked. Moreover, without animal testing and experimentation we would never have discovered things like penicillin.

    Of course sometimes even these stringent testing procedures allow the occasional drug to go onto human testing that is found to have an unacceptable negative effect, but this event is made far more rare via the use of animal testing.

    As for those who claim that humans are simply animals too; well they have to make a choice. Either we are animals and, like animals, are not bound by any moral code and can happily prey off each other, let alone other species, or we are made distinct by certain characteristics that raise us above other animals - consciousness, a sense of self, an understanding of morality etcetera. Different people have different concepts about what makes a human being. Admittedly this leaves a group of people that are biologically human but fall outside our definition of humanity - the demented, the very young, the very old, the brain dead (or simply cadavers) etcetera. Here we must make the distinction between that those who have a chance of recovery into "moral humanity", such as the young, who will grow up, or the psychotic who may recover. Those that fall outside our definitions of humanity without a chance of recovery must be as available for testing as animals. This does not mean they are not assigned moral significance - as Jeremy Bentham said "If it suffers then it has moral worth". However that moral worth should be regarded in relation to those values by which we have come to define humanity, and assigned in an expanding moral circle of worth. Thus animals that approach sentience, feel pain acutely and demonstrate social tendencies (for example) we should be more reluctant to test upon that those without those characteristics. It is almost always those animals who have the most endearing qualities (fluffy fur, similarities in expression and countenance to humans) that are the subject of the most moral outrage, and we should be careful not to let ourselves treat animals differently based on appearance, but rather those essential moral characteristics that define humanity.
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