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On Concepts and Theories of Addiction
Linköping University, Department of Medicine and Health Sciences, Health and Society. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2010 (English)In: Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology, ISSN 1071-6076, E-ISSN 1086-3303, Vol. 17, no 1, 27-30 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article "A Liberal Account of Addiction" is a good piece of analytic philosophy applied to psychiatry. It is well-informed both with regard to empirical matters and philosophical conceptualization. The arguments are often—but, as I will show, not always—quite convincing. The conclusions of the paper also have crucial consequences for practice, for the treatment of patients, and for social policy.

The authors argue that current scientific understandings of the problem of addiction are fundamentally flawed. They distinguish between two main positions in science: The Disease View and the Willpower View. According to the Disease View, drug-seeking behavior is the direct result of some physiological change in the drug seeker's brain. According to the Willpower View, the addict is no longer rational; he or she uses drugs as a result of a fundamentally non-voluntary process.

The authors dismiss the Disease View in the following way. They first note that drug addicts are in many ways rational planners. The addicts may have to think a lot to find the best ways to find the heroin, cigarettes, or alcohol, and they normally act according to this planning. They are not in any simple sense "caused" to act in a particular way. Moreover, referring to recent neurological literature, the authors note that the changes caused by drug addiction—which have to do with activating reward pathways in the brain—are identical with the outcomes of many other human activities that we do not call addiction. "In fact, any pleasurable experience causes dopamine to be released within the brain, activating these reward pathways" (Foddy and Savulescu 2010, 4). These experiences can be the result of coffee drinking, sexual activity, and physical exercise. Thus, the physical changes in the brain are not effects peculiar to the pharmacology of the drugs; they are instead the effects of the pleasure that the subject has experienced.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Baltimore USA: Johns Hopkins University , 2010. Vol. 17, no 1, 27-30 p.
Keyword [en]
addiction, disease, will power, autonomy, holistic view of health
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-57342DOI: 10.1353/ppp.0.0271OAI: diva2:325405
Available from: 2010-06-18 Created: 2010-06-17 Last updated: 2010-06-21

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