7 Times Animals Were Given Drugs for Research and What Happened

A look at studies on animals, as some of which led to breakthroughs, while others were just demonstrating terrible cruelty.
Kashyap Vyas
1, 2

It is common to see animal research happening practically every year that leads to massive breakthroughs in science and medicine. Almost all Nobel Prizes in the field of medicine can be attributed to important contributions made by lab animals.

In fact, there have been 216 Nobel Laureates in Medicine or Physiology between the years 1901 and 2018. All these scientists and researchers have employed the use of animals in their research work to make huge discoveries.

From vaccines to developing life-saving drugs, animal research has revolutionized the field of science and medicine to a great extent. Animal testing has always been an integral part of gauging the proper dosages and safety of new treatments and medicines.

It is perilous to experiment on humans before testing drugs on animals as scientists cannot be too sure about their safety. Therefore, animal research and testing always have been the first step to making cutting-edge discoveries for decades.

That said, there have been plenty of times when an animal has been drugged for research purposes, and the results have been less than satisfactory. Ethical concerns also play a vital role when it comes to animal research and whether it is morally justified.

1. Inbred Mice to Kill Cancer Cells in Humans

Drug testing on Mice
Source: Wualex/Wikimedia Commons

Several decades ago, some inbred mice that were susceptible to leukemia were drugged with potential medicines that could kill the cancer cells in a human body suffering from this cancer.

The mice were genetically identical, and this allowed the researchers to compare different chemotherapeutic compounds as well as develop treatments to reduce the side effects of leukemia.

Over the course of the years, many animals have been an integral part of breakthroughs in the field of medicine.

Some laboratory animals have also shed a lot of light on organ transplantation and have held scientists figure out how different immune systems play a crucial role in the acceptance and rejection of organs in a human body.

Thanks to this animal testing, thousands of people live today because of successful transplantations of their hearts, kidneys, livers, lungs and other organs.

2. Octopuses Hugged on Ecstasy

Octopus Drugged with Ecstasy
Source: NOAA Ocean Exploration & Research/Flickr

Octopuses have been known as smart and interactive beings. There have been countless cases that have proved their intelligence throughout history. It is known that they can even high-five each other and open jars by themselves.

Thanks to these intriguing discoveries, a group of inquisitive scientists gave octopuses ecstasy in order to understand their evolution and brain power. It is a known fact that this party drug reduces the feelings of inhibitions and fears in humans and distorts time.

It was found that both humans and octopuses possess a messaging system that plays an integral role in their social behaviors. This behavior is enhanced by MDMA, a synthetic drug present in ecstasy.

Most Popular

It was concluded that the presence of MDMA in octopuses and humans releases many chemicals such as serotonin. This greatly influences their social behaviors and mood.

It is believed that the presence of MDMA in a human body can potentially treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and help scientists in understanding how the human brain works and evolves.

3. Marijuana to Relieve the Pain of Lobsters

Lobster Given Marijuana
Source: Michel Rathwell/Flickr

Charlotte Gill, a restaurant owner in Southwest Harbor, Me. has made the death of lobsters in her Lobster Pound restaurant more humane.

According to the restauranteur, if she gets them high on marijuana before plunging them into boiling hot water, it might result in a painless death for the lobsters that are the main selling point of her business.

After a series of tests done by her and the restaurant employees, it was discovered that lobsters do experience serenity and calmness once subjected to marijuana.

Although there were concerns of the patrons consuming the “marijuana-treated” lobsters, Ms. Gill’s thought-process can readily be appreciated in a world where animals are traumatized and subjected to cruelty every single day.

4. Australian Pig Nursed A Hangover After Drinking Eighteen Beers

Feral Pig
Source: Richard Bartz, Munich Makro Freak/Wikimedia Commons

This is one of the lighter incidents that is not necessarily a breakthrough or a failure. Yet it goes on to show the effects of alcohol on a pig.

In Western Australia, a wild pig apparently ransacked a campsite, stole all the food and alcohol of the campers and attacked a cow in the region.

The pig gulped down 18 cans of beer and was seeing tearing apart the garbage bin liners of the area. The cow was later seen chasing the wild Australian pig after which; the campers reported the pig lying beneath the shade of a tree, nursing a hangover.

Guess the effects of alcohol on an animal resemble those on a human!

5. An Elephant Injected With LSD

Elephant Injected with LSD
Source: Justin Hall/Flickr

An Asian elephant named Tusko was subjected to one of the most controversial and the biggest animal experiments in 1962.

In this experiment, two colleagues from the University of Oklahoma decided to drug Tusko with LSD, a recreational drug that had yet to gain popularity and momentum.

The purpose was to see if the drug would induce a condition known as Musth in the elephant. Therefore, 297 mg of LSD was injected in Tusko.

It is pertinent to note here that this dosage is massive, even for an elephant. As a result of the drug, Tusko trumpeted, fell down, defecated and started shuddering violently.

His legs also became stiff, and his pupils dilated. His breathing was also labored. He was pumped with tranquilizers and an anti-psychotic to calm him down, but he died a few minutes later due to the toxicity of LSD.

Even though the researchers learned a lot of valuable things and developed a great insight from this experiment, a helpless animal was mercilessly tortured to generate evidence.

6. The Case of The Silver Spring Monkeys

Silver Spring Monkeys
Source: Alex Pacheco of PETA/Wikimedia Commons

The case of the Silver Spring Monkeys became extremely famous (or infamous) due to its unparalleled cruelty on monkeys. This case is also popular as it induced the launch of PETA.

In this case, an animal experimenter and psychologist named Edward Taub discovered 17 monkeys in a warehouse from where IBR (Institute for Behavioral Research) was being run.

The man had no medical training whatsoever when he discovered these monkeys living in rusty wire cages that were too small to contain them and were accumulated with years of feces.

Moreover, they were caged in a room that resembled a dungeon, and there was no one to tend to their severe wounds.

Taub, in an effort to make the monkeys better, did multiple surgeries on them and damaged their spinal nerves one by one. This resulted in the monkeys’ limbs becoming completely useless.

To add salt to the wounds, Taub decided it would be a good idea to get the monkeys to regain the function of their damaged limbs by using a variety of cruel methods. He deprived them of food, electrocuted them and forced them to use their disabled limbs to pick up food from a tray.

He also strapped and restrained the monkeys in a chair and latched pliers on their skin including their testicles.

The monkeys were so traumatized with the inhumane treatment and their imprisonment that most of them started ripping at their own flesh in a bid to find some food.

Many also lost their fingers due to the wired bars in the cage. This is when PETA stepped in and then began a long journey of saving animals from cruel experimentations.

7. Guinea Pigs to Treat Depression

Guinea Pigs
Source: Kurre92/Wikimedia Commons

This is another breakthrough in the field of medicine. An Australian psychiatrist researched on guinea pigs in 1949 to understand the effects of lithium on a human body. His mission was to understand if lithium could work as a drug in curing the manic-depressive illness.

During his research, he observed that a compound name lithium urate had a very calming effect on the guinea pigs. Thereafter, he tested the same drug on humans and found that patients suffering from years of manic depression experienced significant relief from their symptoms.

After two hardcore decades of intense research with animals, lithium was accepted as an effective and safe treatment to cure the illness.


It can be seen that in these 7 instances, animal experiments were either wildly successful or a miserable failure.

In any case, animals have been subjected to tests and experiments since times immemorial to make the lives of human beings more comfortable and long-lasting.

It cannot be contested that the results of these experimentations have gone a long way in curing innumerable diseases in men as well as animals. Yet, the expense on which researchers have come to wild breakthroughs and discoveries is still highly debatable.

message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron