Determinism and Destigmatization: Mitigating Blame for Addiction

Published in Neuroethics, this paper advances the thesis that taking an explicitly deterministic view of addictive behavior can help reduce the stigma often associated with substance use disorders.

Here's the abstract:

The brain disease model of addiction is widely endorsed by agencies concerned with treating behavioral disorders and combatting the stigma often associated with addiction. However, both its accuracy and its effectiveness in reducing stigma have been challenged. A proposed alternative, the “choice” model, recognizes the residual rational behavior control capacities of addicted individuals and their ability to make choices, some of which may cause harm. Since harmful choices are ordinarily perceived as blameworthy, the choice model may inadvertently help justify stigma. This paper seeks to fully naturalize the choice model by highlighting the determinants of voluntary action and thus increase its potential for destigmatizing addiction. In light of a deterministic understanding of behavior, it is unreasonable to suppose that addicted individuals could have made different choices in becoming addicted and in subsequent situations. To the extent that stigma is motivated by the supposition that addicted individuals could have chosen otherwise in actual situations, a deterministic understanding of addictive behavior promises to mitigate blame and stigma. 

A pdf of the paper is here.