Does Addiction Trump Free Will?

For years, many scholars and clinicians have considered addictive behavior to be a brain disease that eliminates free will. If addiction is a disease, then presumably its sufferers have no more control over its course than people with cancer or the flu. This message of no free will is echoed by Alcoholics Anonymous: the first step in AA is admitting you are powerless over your addictive behavior. However, the removal of free will is not scientifically proven. Many scientists now believe addictive behavior, while unfortunate and tragic, is controllable and caused by free decision-making.

If this latter view is correct and addicts do have control, they may suffer more for mistakenly believing they lack control. Specifically, telling people they cannot control addictive behaviors may discourage them from trying to control addictive behaviors, thereby needlessly prolonging addiction.

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