Can Drug Addicts Make Rational Choices?

I know that it’s been a long time since I blogged–about 10 months, to be exact.  Well, I had no idea how much time graduate studies would take.  And, of course, I’m still working full-time and refereeing basketball and soccer so I’m still busy. And–get this–I start my counseling practicum in January.  As if my life wasn’t full enough…

Anyway, here’s an article that might throw a bit of a wrench in conventional drug abuse wisdom.  It was published in the September 16, 2013 edition of the New York Times.  Here’s the link:

I want to you to notice that, when he did his research, Professor Hart figured he’d end up with the usual findings, that addicts develop intense cravings and seek their drug of choice to the exclusion of nearly all else.  However, that’s not what his research turned up.  Instead of finding a neurological cure for addiction, he found that hardly anyone who used crack or meth get addicted.  In fact, when given a desired alternative, Professor Hart’s subjects many times chose that alternative instead of the drug. And, how about this interesting three-sentence paragraph: “Yes, he notes, some children were abandoned by crack-addicted parents, but many families in his neighborhood were torn apart before crack — including his own. (He was raised largely by his grandmother.) Yes, his cousins became destitute crack addicts living in a shed, but they’d dropped out of school and had been unemployed long before crack came along.” So, obviously, there was much more going on in the environment that might have helped push those folks down the proverbial abyss. That is something to consider. And consider this from Dr. Hart: “If you’re living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure,” Dr. Hart said in an interview, arguing that the caricature of enslaved crack addicts comes from a misinterpretation of the famous rat experiments.  Perhaps the issue of the lack of hope comes into play here.

Can addicts really stop using drugs when provided with alternative reinforcers, as Dr. Rush from the University of Kentucky says? Would enriching one’s environment lead to a decrease in drug use and abuse, as Dr. Hart seems to purport? How about the social element of addiction, as stated by Dr. Nutt? If drug use and abuse didn’t bring social fulfillment, would it be as attractive?  Interesting questions…

Looking at this from a Choice Theory perspective, perhaps drug use and addiction fulfills a need for love & belonging, as we note the social aspect of addiction. Perhaps, also, using and abusing drugs fulfills the need for power.  After all, most street drugs are illegal and using them gives the user a sense of power since, at least for the moment, they are “getting away” with something. Of course, when the intense cravings begin, the addict loses power over the drug and such a need goes unfulfilled. The drug becomes part of the user’s “Quality World” and its importance to the user increases. Obviously, the drug replaces something in the user’s Quality World.  Perhaps the reason that some users can choose an alternative reinforce is because such an alternative is in the user’s Quality World.

While research has noted the effects of drugs on the brain, might it also be true that an “addict” can still make rational choices concerning whether to use or not to use drugs at any particular moment? I think it’s an issue that needs to be investigated further.

Peace to all



About august589

I'm currently a radio announcer but I'm currently pursuing a Master's in Mental Health Counseling degree. In these blogs, I want to bring a Biblical perspective to mental health and psychological issues that I find as I peruse the internet.
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