Addiction: choice or compulsion?

Frontiers in Psychiatry 4 (77):11 (2013)
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Abstract

Normative thinking about addiction has traditionally been divided between, on the one hand, a medical model which sees addiction as a disease characterized by compulsive and relapsing drug use over which the addict has little or no control and, on the other, a moral model which sees addiction as a choice characterized by voluntary behaviour under the control of the addict. Proponents of the former appeal to evidence showing that regular consumption of drugs causes persistent changes in the brain structures and functions known to be involved in the motivation of behavior. On this evidence, it is often concluded that becoming addicted involves a transition from voluntary, chosen drug use to non-voluntary compulsive drug use. Against this view, proponents of the moral model provide ample evidence that addictive drug use involves voluntary chosen behaviour. In this paper we argue that although they are right about something, both views are mistaken. We present a third model that neither rules out the view of addictive drug use as compulsive, nor that it involves voluntary chosen behavior. -/- .

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Edmund Henden
Oslo Metropolitan University

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