Taxpayer Money Is Being Used to Get Rats High
According to a recent report, the use of drugs like bath salts, Flakka and methamphetamine is rampant at the University of Mississippi Medical Center — well, at least among rats. They take the drugs intravenously daily. It’s an expensive habit costing an estimated $5.6 million in the last 14 years, and taxpayers are the ones funding it.
“The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Research Triangle Institute has received more than $5.6 million over the past 14 years for an experiment to determine if synthetic drugs like bath salts are as addictive as methamphetamine,” explains the report published by the Animal Justice Project in conjunction with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.
“Two-month-old rats were starved to 85 percent of their normal body weight and trained to press levers for food. The baby rats were divided into two groups and had catheters implanted, which delivered either methamphetamine or a mix of designer drugs. The results concluded that methamphetamine did not produce the same results as designer street drugs like bath salts and Flakka, often referred to as the ‘zombie drug,’ and more experiments were needed to test for abuse potential of synthetic drugs in order to determine how to regulate them.”
UMMC has defended their work saying that looking into these new drugs is vital to understanding how they affect humans, especially teenagers who come into contact with the drugs first. It’s their very expensive way of saying: “Kids, don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad.”
Also bad, however, are these studies according to other scientists. A 2008 study found that “on average, the extrapolated results from studies using tens of millions of animals fail to accurately predict human responses.” Geneticist Kathy Archibald and pharmacologist Robert Coleman even went as far as noting in a piece on The New Scientist how “it is hard to understand why governments defend a system with such a poor record.”
How bad exactly? The National Institute of Health’s (NIH) documents show that 92 percent of all drugs shown to be safe after animal testing later fail human trials. Out of the remaining eight percent, half of them have to be relabeled for side effects not identified during animal experimentation.
And that’s just for actual regulated drugs that are developed to be marketed to the public. When it comes to research on illicit drugs like UMMC’s, the results are even more questionable.
“Mice are not humans, and tests on animals often fail to mimic human diseases or predict how the human body responds to new drugs,” said Don Ingber, founding director of Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, in the report that highlights how 95 similar experiments have cost taxpayers a total of $150 million to date.
Some of the studies taking place across the country include $18 million for getting squirrel monkeys addicted to cocaine and heroin to see if former addicts are more prone to relapse if not given fatty foods; $31 million over the past 22 years to hook rats and mice on opioids at UCLA and see how the reward part of their brains act; and $2.6 million in San Diego to get monkeys drunk and examine if binge drinking affects perception. Spoiler alert: It does. Most adults could conclude that in one rough night, but it took researchers seven years and now they are proposing an expansion of it to include long periods of drinking.
But that’s not all the research the U.S. government is funding. It is estimated that between the NIH and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), taxpayers fund between $12 billion and $14.5 billion in animal tests.
That large sum is divided among 50,000 grants for over 2,500 universities, medical schools and research institutions. The number of animals tortured and killed in those experiments is estimated to be 100 million but a definite number cannot be obtained since these institutions do not have to report just how many animals are used if their subjects are rats, mice or birds —the case in 90 percent of tests.
They also don’t have to report the usefulness of this research to keep that funding, says Julia Orr, a spokesperson for the Animal Justice Project.
“They don’t actually have to prove that injecting cocaine into mice makes them do this, and that is applicable to humans because of that,” Orr told the Washington Times. “There’s no indication that any of this is applicable to humans at all.”
So the research continues with little oversight on animal welfare as reported in a front page expose in the New York Times in 2015. Per the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, “with just 115 USDA inspectors to oversee more than 7,750 licensed facilities involved in research, exhibition, breeding, or dealing of animals, adequate inspection and regulation is impossible.”
Some progress has been made over the years, though. Chimpanzees which were routinely tortured in labs across the country have recently been protected. After being placed in the Endangered Species List, to conduct research on the animals, institutions had to file for a special permit. None did and partly because of the fear of backlash. Robert Lanford, director of the Southwest National Primate Research Center, told Science Magazine in 2015, “public opinion is currently heavily influencing this process.”
To encourage the government to stop using your taxpayer money from funding animal experiments, you can sign this petition.
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