Monkey drug trials 1969
Last week I found a list of the top ten unethical experiments that had been done throughout the many years of Psychology that involved humans and animals. Out of the list there was one such study that I found to be particularly interesting, and surprising that such an experiment was ever aloud to be conducted. This study was done by Deneau, Yanagita & Seevers (1969) and was known as the monkey drug trials.
The experiment was looking at the effects of self-administration of drugs by the monkey. In other words, whether a monkey would become addicted to drugs and as a result self-administer itself in order to maintain the drug abuse. The monkeys were first injected with drugs (some monkeys received cocaine, morphine and amphetamines) and researchers observed the behaviour afterwards, consequently the monkeys became dependent on the drugs. The experiment found that the biological traits were similar to that of humans, and results suggested that one of the key motivations for drug abuse was the psychological dependence. This experiment found the key reason why drug abuse takes place which can help researchers and physicians provide a psychological treatment which can help people with a drug addiction give up. As this kind of experiment cannot be done on humans, the only option for the researchers was to use monkeys. However, animals and humans are different and therefore findings on non-humans should be cautious when suggesting a similar trait can be found in humans. In some cases there can be many differences between animal behaviour and human behaviour, therefore results for one another cannot be generalised.
A classic example of this is the study looking at the effects of the drug thalidomide on morning sickness for pregnant women (as cited in Developmental Psychology, 2010). The study had tested the drug on rats and found there were no side effects caused from the drug and that the drug was effective in treating morning sickness. This drug was given to pregnant women, which alleviated the symptoms of nausea. However, when the women gave birth, there were serious abnormalities with their babies’ physical appearance. For instance, the babies would either have a absence of a limb or have limbs attached to their abdomen, and serious deformities in the eyes, heart, ears etc. This shows that whilst animals may not show effects to certain drugs, humans may, and therefore whenever experiments are being conducted on animals, researchers should not suggest that findings could be generalised to humans.
The monkeys trials were also highly unethical as the subjects suffered pain, withdrawal symptoms and in some cases died from an overdose. The Helsinki declaration was founded in 1964 and from there has been regularly updated on the principles of good practice. It first stated that, “the welfare of animals used for research must be respected”. This was the start of ethical guidance for non-human subjects. From here the APA ethical code added more guidance on the way animals should be treated and gave strict instructions for the grounds of when an experiment on animals is acceptable. For example animal research should not harm the animal or distress it on any way (APA). In this experiment, the monkeys would self-harm themselves (ie. Take chunks of fur off their abdomen when under the influence and in some cases the monkeys died) therefore under the APA ethical code, the researchers would be unethical and would not be allowed to conduct this experiment.
This experiment in my opinion is not useful to psychology, as it lacks ecological validity. Animals do not have the capability of administering drugs in the outside world, unless human interference trains them to self-administer. Although the results show a similarity in monkey and human behaviour in the self-maintaining of drugs, there is no real benefit to this finding and therefore the end does not justify the means.
Deneau. G., Yanagita. T., & Seevers. M. H. (1969). Self-administration of psychoactive substances by the monkey. Psychopharmacologia, 16, 30-48. Doi: 10.1007/BF00405254
Helsinki declaration. http://www.wma.net/en/30publications/10policies/b3/
Shaffer. D. R., & Kipp. K. (2010). Developmental psychology childhood and adolescence. 8th Edition. Wadsworth.