Experiencing Life in a Box - Addiction Experiments at the University of Michigan
In the U.S. over 62,000 non-human primates are victimized in
experimentation annually. One of the most common varieties of
experimentation involves drug addiction. These experiments often subject
squirrel monkeys, rhesus monkeys, baboons, and others primates to
decades of isolation, confinement, and psychological agony.
It is difficult to comprehend what the lives of these victims are
like. They are housed in stainless steel enclosures measuring roughly 33
inches long by 30 inches wide by 36 inches deep. To put yourself in
their place, you must imagine spending your life confined in a small
enclosure large enough to take only one or two short steps in any
direction and with just enough height to stand upright. You never have
the opportunity to see the sun or breathe fresh air.
Your prison contains only a seat of some variety and a rubber toy.
Nothing else exists to pass the time, nothing to occupy your mind. The
partially open front of your enclosure allows you to see that others
like yourself are in similar rooms nearby. You can talk to, see, and
possibly smell them, but you cannot interact with them in any other way.
The loneliness is devastating. You have no interaction with friends
or family; never even have the opportunity to touch another human. You
often feel like you are losing your mind, and many of your fellow
prisoners behave as though they have already lost their minds.
This is your entire life. It ends only when you become ill from some
condition which is a result of the experiment that has totally consumed
your life. When death finally comes, it provides your only possibility
This is the brutal reality of what a primate experiences in a lab.
One such laboratory is the University of Michigan (UM). The experiments
at this facility have been underway for decades – consuming the lives of
hundreds of primates. Two UM researchers, James Woods and Gail Winger,
are currently performing drug addiction experiments on macaque monkeys
which have squandered over $13 million in federal grants in just the
last five years. However, Winger has been federally funded since 1976,
and Woods has been funded since 1971.
Almost every health record for the primates at UM which were used in
addiction experiments lists a time when the monkeys are ripping out
their hair, or worse. Several actually mention multiple incidents of
severe self-mutilation. Other primates are listed as requiring the
amputation of their tails due to self-inflicted lacerations.
One of the UM primates named Scallywag is listed as losing weight
from the constant activity associated with psychologically abnormal
behavior. Another primate named Clash had a 12% weight loss of unknown
origin. Yet, another rhesus monkey is described as declining from 6.8 kg
to 5.8 kg (15 pounds to 12 ¾ pounds) a 15% weight loss in just 3 months.
This animal also has constant muscle contractions and is hypothermic
which could be related to drug withdrawal. Yet, another primate named
Data had a weight loss of 10.5% in a short period.
Harpo’s records discuss four incidents of self-mutilation in five
days during 2006; this comes after a long history of self-destructive
behavior. Eminem wears a “long sleeved jacket due to history of
self-mutilation.” Scallywag behaves abnormally around people. The list
goes on and on and on.
In addition to the social isolation that comes from solitary
confinement, these rhesus monkeys wear a nylon jacket to cover a
surgically implanted intravenous catheter used to administer addictive
drugs. The catheter exits through a site on the primate’s back and is
connected to a metal spring arm which is affixed to the rear of the
cage, further limiting the mobility of the primate. It is no surprise
that these monkeys can be trained to self-administer addictive drugs
because addiction is the only way that they can escape the mind-numbing
Many of these animals are transferred from other labs that also
perform psychological experiments on primates including: Virginia
Commonwealth University (VCU aka Medical College of Virginia), Yerkes
Primate Center (connected to Emory University), and National Institutes
of Health, itself. It is entirely likely that these unfortunate animals
suffered through conditions within these other labs that were sufficient
to cost them their sanity, and then were transferred to the University
of Michigan to continue in similar experiments or worse. The lives of
these primates are long, some have now endured psychological and
addiction experiments since at least 1990, suffering through decades of
drug addiction and psychological agony.
It is obvious that laboratory captivity has made these animals
psychologically abnormal. The applicability for human medicine of a
psychological experiment on a different species of primates is
questionable at best when the primates are healthy. The UM primates in
the labs of Winger and Woods are anything but psychologically normal,
making these projects essentially meaningless.