Control and Responsibility in Addicted Individuals: What do Addiction Neuroscientists and Clinicians Think?

Neuroethics 7 (2):205-214 (2013)
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Impaired control over drug use is a defining characteristic of addiction in the major diagnostic systems. However there is significant debate about the extent of this impairment. This qualitative study examines the extent to which leading Australian addiction neuroscientists and clinicians believe that addicted individuals have control over their drug use and are responsible for their behaviour. One hour semi-structured interviews were conducted during 2009 and 2010 with 31 Australian addiction neuroscientists and clinicians (10 females and 21 males; 16 with clinical experience and 15 with no clinical experience). Although many addiction neuroscientists and clinicians described uncontrolled or compulsive drug use as characteristic of addiction, most were ambivalent about whether or not addicted people could be said to have no control of their drug use. Most believed that addicted individuals have fluctuating levels of impaired control over their drug use but they nonetheless believed that addicted persons were responsible for their behaviour, including criminal behaviour engaged in to fund their drug use. Addiction was not seen as exculpating criminal behaviour but as a mitigating factor



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Author Profiles

Stephanie Bell
University of Glasgow
Wayne Hall
State University of New York (SUNY)
Adrian Carter
Monash University