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While the intent of these researchers seems to be bolstering the War on Fat, they've in fact produced compelling counter-evidence against the War on Some Drugs, which is just adding up and up and up.
Studies published between 1969 and 1985, for instance, found that rats and rhesus monkeys "will prefer cocaine to food" and "will self-administer cocaine until death or near-death," as Stanton Peele and Richard DeGrandpre note in a 1998 Addiction Research article. But the animals in these studies were isolated from other animals, deprived of interesting stimuli, and prevented from engaging in normal behavior while tethered to catheters providing "an unlimited, direct flow of high concentrations of cocaine at all times at little or no cost" (in terms of effort). Research conducted in more naturalistic settings finds that monkeys and rats are much more apt to consume cocaine and morphine in moderation. [Emphasis added.]
In this particular study, rats were apparently split into groups and put in mazes; the researchers found the same tendency to go toward the side of the maze with Oreos as to go to the side where they'd receive heroin or cocaine. [Following the link in this article to the press release, we learn the other side of the maze "rewarded" the rats with rice cakes, so that's an extremely shaky premise from the start!]
In reality, favoring Oreos/cocaine/heroin over rice cakes doesn't seem like compelling science at all. What is interesting, however, is this discovery:
They found that the Oreos activated significantly more ["pleasure center"] neurons than cocaine or morphine.
Which would actually suggest that Oreos are more addictive than heroin and cocaine. And yet, the majority of people are able to moderate their Oreo consumption, or even avoid them altogether.
So why can't they do the same with heroin and cocaine? Actually, as it turns out, they can.