Responsibility for addiction: risk, value, and reasonable foreseeability

In Rob Lovering (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Psychoactive Drug Use. New York: Palgrave Macmillan (forthcoming)
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It is often assumed that, except perhaps in a few rare cases, people with addiction can be aptly held responsible for having acquired the condition. In this chapter, I consider the argument that supports this view and draw attention to a number of challenges that can be raised against it. Assuming that early decisions to use drugs were made in possession of normal-range psychological capacities, I consider the key question of whether drug users who later became addicted should have known that addiction was a likely outcome of their decisions to use drugs in a way that makes them blameworthy for their lack of foresight. I focus on three different points of contention surrounding this claim: how likely the outcome to be predicted was, how tolerable risk should be weighed against the expected value of decisions to use, and how reliable the relevant predictive abilities of the average person are. Once we consider in some detail what would have to be true in order for someone to be aptly held responsible for becoming addicted, the prospects for making a convincing case to that effect look, I argue, somewhat more uncertain than they might at first appear.

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Federico Burdman
Universidad Alberto Hurtado


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