The Relationship Between Addiction And Free Will: Lack of Belief In Choice May Impede Treatment
It is the belief among many that those who are addicted to substances do not have the ability to make choices or exercise free will – but this is a controversial topic among health care providers. And recent research posits that an absence of belief in free will can actually impede addiction treatment.
“A widespread view among health professionals is the idea that addiction is a disease caused by problems when the brain encounters certain foreign substances commonly known as addictive drugs.”
Andrew Vonasch, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, set out to examine the link between addiction and free will and included multiple follow-up studies which identified how people believe that addiction can hinder free will.
The research investigated whether or not the absence of belief in free will could encourage people to perceive temptations as more addictive than they really are, and if most people believe addiction impedes their free will only when it suits them.
The findings revealed that most people DO believe that addictive substances hinder their free will, and they also use this belief to associate reduced free will to actions perceived as negative, more so than positive.
Vonasch also stressed that people who have strong beliefs in religion or are conservative politically are more likely to believe in free will and be more anti-drug use than non-religious liberals. And those individuals who believe less in free will were more apt to admit to being a past daily drinker.
The author’s conclusion:
“People believe that drugs undermine free will, and they use this belief to self-servingly attribute less free will to their bad actions than to good ones. Low belief in free will also increases perceptions that things are addictive.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology