Addiction is a disorder of control, not choice – A response to Heyman’s book

I was working on the first chapter of my book today and the issue of choice plays a prominent part in it. I’m a little pissed at Dr. Heyman, whose name sounds like something a stoner might say, about his book, “Addiction – A disorder of choice”.

The thing is that at its most basic, every action we perform seems like a choice. Whenever you take a step, think a thought, or feel a feeling, you’re “choosing” that specific action rather than an almost endless number of other options.

However, when choices are involuntary, or are made below the level of consciousness, as is often the case not only with addiction but in many other instances in life, than I believe the word choice is being misused. Dr. Heyman knew that his book would cause controversy, but he also knows very well that the mere exposure to substances can cause profound changes in the way animals make choices.

Drugs alter the way the brain works, including the ways choice are made. They affect the internal value given to rewards, they alter the brain’s ability to adjust to new situations, and they change the brain’s basic neurochemistry to cause profound effects on overall function that no doubt alter many more processes.

And I haven’t even touched on the ways that different people are pre-programmed to make choice in different ways because of their genetic make-up. Whether you call it choice or not isn’t the question. Rather, the question is one of control. Addiction is a disorder of control.

6 responses to “Addiction is a disorder of control, not choice – A response to Heyman’s book”

  1. Isn’t the jury still out on free will 😉

    Your post reminds me of mindfulness training/meditation.

    • Hi Brandon, mindfulness training certainly has the potential to make individuals more aware of their actions, their emotions, and their overall functioning. It’s something that I think many addicts would especially benefit from.

  2. Sounds like a throwback to the moralistic view of addiction being ‘bad’ things done by ‘bad’ people.

    Here I thought we were moving out of the dark ages and into a view of addiction as a brain disease

  3. Hi Bill,
    I think the book is certainly absurd, especially in light of the fact that Dr. Heyman knows the research showing that drug use alters brain chemistry. To then throw that all away and say addicts put themselves in situations that have reduced opportunity and therefore choose to stay there is dumb.

  4. Mr Jaffe can you recommend me books about this subject to learn more. Because I have an alcohol addicted friend and I am trying to help him

    • Hello Neyire,
      What sort of books were you looking for? Do you want to learn more about addiction and what causes it or would you like to get your hand on books that offer treatment options or tell addiction stories?

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