Are addicted individuals responsible for their behaviour?

Hall, Wayne and Carter, Adrian (2015). Are addicted individuals responsible for their behaviour?. In Walter Glannon (Ed.), Free will and the brain: neuroscientific, philosophical, and legal perspectives (pp. 146-167) Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139565820.009

Author Hall, Wayne
Carter, Adrian
Title of chapter Are addicted individuals responsible for their behaviour?
Title of book Free will and the brain: neuroscientific, philosophical, and legal perspectives
Place of Publication Cambridge, United Kingdom
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Publication Year 2015
Sub-type Research book chapter (original research)
DOI 10.1017/CBO9781139565820.009
Open Access Status Not Open Access
Year available 2015
ISBN 9781139565820
Editor Walter Glannon
Chapter number 8
Start page 146
End page 167
Total pages 22
Total chapters 13
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
For two centuries, clinicians have argued that chronically addicted individuals suffer from a disease that is produced by the effects that chronic alcohol or drug use has on their brains. Neuroscience research has provided support for this view by describing the brain mechanisms that are believed to underlie chronic addiction. Research on animals has revealed the neurochemical circuitry on which psychoactive drugs of dependence act and produced animal models of human addiction that reproduce features of human addiction, such as drug tolerance and withdrawal symptoms, and rapid reinstatement of drug use after periods of abstinence. Human neuroimaging studies suggest that similar neurobiological processes operate in the brains of addicted humans. Leading proponents of neurobiological research on addiction have argued that it shows that addiction is a chronic brain disease. In this paper we critically examine the research used to support this claim and discuss its implications for ascribing responsibility to addicted persons for criminal acts that they commit to enable their drug use. We also assess whether the evidence for a brain disease model of addiction justifies the compulsory treatment of severely addicted persons for paternalistic reasons, that is, for their own good.

Neuroscience research on addiction promises to illuminate a long-standing debate in philosophy and the law about whether addicted persons are morally and legally responsible for their drug use and for any criminal offences that they may commit in order to obtain and use addictive drugs. We describe two conflicting views that have dominated discussions of this issue: the moral view that drug use is always a free choice for which individuals are, and should be, held fully morally and legally responsible; and the brain disease model in which chronic drug use is hypothesized to produce changes in brain function that impair the capacity of addicted persons to control their drug use, and so reduce their responsibility for their behaviour. We explore the evidence and arguments marshalled for each view and the competing interpretations of neuroscience and epidemiological research that the proponents of each view deploy. We also consider attempts that have been made to develop an account that does justice to the research evidence without accepting a strong form of the brain disease model that eliminates responsibility.
Q-Index Code B1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

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