In daily interaction with people it is hard to tell if their behavior is by choice or by mental compulsion. Do I drink a lot of Coke (Coca-Cola) because my mind needs it or do I drink a lot of Coke because I love Coke and it is cheap? The same goes for drugs. Do drug addicts use drugs because they are addicted (their mind chemically craves the substance) or because that is just what they feel like doing?
Theodore Dalrymple argues, from his own observations of drug addicts, that addiction and withdrawal are mild even for heavy drug users. Now a new study shows that crack addicts respond well to incentives. Namely, most will take $20 at a distance future time over an immediate fix. Crack is not the magical substance portrayed by Hollywood:
When methamphetamine replaced crack as the great drug scourge in the United States, Dr. Hart brought meth addicts into his laboratory for similar experiments — and the results showed similarly rational decisions. He also found that when he raised the alternative reward to $20, every single addict, of meth and crack alike, chose the cash. They knew they wouldn’t receive it until the experiment ended weeks later, but they were still willing to pass up an immediate high.
The best part about this study, the author had the opposite expectations of what he found.
The practical takeaway is that we should not let people fool us by passing blame to “addictions”. The fact that they respond to incentives shows that they can choose otherwise. Every human action is a choice.
The theological take-away is that we are not robots (slaves of our physiology) and we have free will in our actions.