The irrationality of decision-making in addiction.

A key characteristic of drug addiction is that the individual suffering from it continues to use despite harmful consequences. The behavioral economic perspective views addiction as a consequence of falling victim to decision failures that lead to a preference for the addictive behavior (Bickel et al., 2014). The following are 10 ways in which addictive consumption choices can be pathologically impaired. These dysfunctional decision-making processes also predict whether individuals retain the capacity to improve their choices (Heyman, 2009).

1. Genetic vulnerability.

Why do only certain individuals become and remain addicted? There is substantial evidence for a genetic predisposition to develop addiction (Kreek et al., 2005). For example, studies of twins and adopted children suggest that about half of a person’s vulnerability to alcohol problems is inherited. It is also possible that heavy drinking causes major changes in the

2. Self-medication.

When emotional suffering is caused by the intolerable conditions of life (tragedy), a quick “fix” offers immediate satisfaction and escape from misery (Khantzian, 2012). For example, alcohol can make us relax and forget our worries. Unfortunately, over time, the brain of a heavy drinker adjusts to the continuous consumption, resulting in anxiety and irritability. And instead of drinking to feel good, the person ends up drinking to feel normal.

3. Lack of alternative rewards.

The lack of alternative, non-drug rewards partly explains the demand for drug consumption.
Professor Hart (2013) notes that if you are living in a poor neighborhood deprived of options, there’s a certain rationality to keep taking a drug that will give you some temporary pleasure. There is now extensive research showing that providing alternative rewards to those who formerly lacked them may improve addiction treatment outcomes. That is, environmental conditions can play a major role in treating drug addiction and in preventing

4. Impaired insight.

Chronic drug abuse is associated with impaired self-awareness (dysfunction of the insular cortex), which manifests as a denial of the severity of addiction and the need for treatment (Naqvi et al., 2007). For example, only a small fraction of heavy drinkers admit they have a drinking problem. This is one reason why some people keep drinking even after they realize it’s destroying their lives. Mindfulness is an important approach shown to improve
awareness and inhibitory control (Paulus and Stewart 2014).

5. A love-hate relationship with the drug.

Chronic drug use can lead to a separation between the predicted value of reward from the drug and its actual enjoyment (Kringelbach and Berridge, 2009). For addicts, intense wanting or craving for addictive substances is not necessarily accompanied by an enjoyment of their consumption. That is, even after the drug no longer brings pleasure, an addict can still feel a strong urge to use. They are craving the drug even when the drug is no longer

6. Deadly attraction.

Attentional bias for substance-related stimuli is one’s tendency to readily notice and attend to stimuli in the environment that are related to the person’s substance use. Studies have concluded that drug-related attentional bias predicts post-treatment relapse among drug abusers (Field et al., 2009). However, there are ways to reduce its effects, the simplest of which is to avoid situations and stimuli that are related to substance use.

7. Falling off the wagon.

The late addiction psychologist Marlatt (2005) coined the term abstinence violation effect (AVE) to refer to situations in which addicts respond to an initial indulgence by consuming even more of the forbidden substance. And they feel utterly defeated. For example, “just one cigarette” quickly turns into half a pack; have “just one drink,” and before you know it, the whole bottle is gone. The bias occurs when an individual views his relapse as a deviation
from his commitment to absolute abstinence.

8. Overvaluation of the immediate reward.

Impulsivity is the inclination to seek out immediate gratification at the cost of long-term gains. For an addict, the decision to continue to use may reflect the impulsive system dominating the deliberative process. Thus, events that are more immediate in time (such as having the drug now as opposed to the delayed consequences) have a stronger capability to influence decision making. Moreover, research suggests that alcohol and other drug abuse
may impair the reflective mind, which is responsible for a wide range of control, including inhibition, sustained attention and planning (Volkow and Baler, 2014).

9. Stress.

There is solid evidence on the link between chronic stress and the motivation to abuse addictive substances (Al’Absi, 2007). For instance, research in human studies shows that adverse childhood experiences, such as physical and sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and family dysfunction, are associated with an increased risk for addiction. High emotional stress is associated with a loss of control over impulses and an inability to delay gratification. Moreover, poverty or the scarcity of resources is stressful in nature and can lead to emotional distress and subsequent drug use.

10. Projection bias.

This bias describes the tendency for individuals when “cold” (i.e., not craving) to mispredict how they will behave when “hot” (i.e., craving). The behavior stems in part because people cannot recall the intensity of their own past cravings. The failure to vividly recall or anticipate the discomfort of craving can explain why people overestimate their own abilities to resist the craving. The challenge for an ex-addict is to keep “alive” memories of the unpleasantness and power of craving.

In summary: Drug addiction is associated with altered decision making that appears to overvalue pleasure, undervalue risk, and cause failure to learn from repeated mistakes. Thus, addiction might be best viewed as a chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes, and not a moral failure, so that most addicts will require long-term treatment, and relapse can be expected to occur sometime during the treatment. Therefore, the occasional relapse
is only a predictable setback, not a failure of the treatment.


Al’Absi Mustafa (2007). Stress and Addiction: Biological and Psychological Mechanisms (2007) Academic press.

Bickel, W. K., Johnson, M. W., Koffarnus, M. N., MacKillop, J., & Murphy, J. G. (2014). The behavioral economics of substance use disorders: Reinforcement pathologies and their repair. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 10, 641-677.

Field M., Munafò M. R., Franken I. H. A. (2009). A meta-analytic investigation of the relationship between attentional bias and subjective craving in substance abuse. Psychol. Bull. 135 589–607.

Hart, Carl (2013) High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society Harper.

Heyman G.M. (2009) Addiction: A disorder of choice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Khantzian, E. J. (2012). Reflections on treating addictive disorders: a psychodynamic perspective. The American Journal of Addictions, 21, 274-279.

Kreek et al. (2005), Influences on impulsivity, risk taking, stress responsivity and vulnerability to drug abuse and addiction Nat. Neurosci., 8 (11): 1450-1457.

Kringelbach ML, Berridge KC (2009). Towards a functional neuroanatomy of pleasure and happiness. Trends Cog Sci.;13:479–487.

Marlatt GA, Witkiewitz K. In: Relapse Prevention for Alcohol and Drug Problems. 2. Marlatt G Alan, Donovan Dennis M, editor. Relapse prevention: Maintenance strategies in the treatment of addictive behaviors; 2005. pp. 1–44. 2005.

Naqvi, Nasir H., David Rudrauf, Hanna Damasio, and Antoine Bechara (2007). Damage to the Insula Disrupts Addiction to Cigarette Smoking. Science 315: 531-534

Paulus MP, Stewart JL. (2013). Interoception and drug addiction. Neuropharmacology. 2014 Jan;76 Pt B:342-50.

Volkow, N.D., Baler, R.D. (2014), Addiction science: Uncovering neurobiological complexity, Neuropharmacology,76, 235-249.


  1. Kathaleen Freiberg

    What your stating is totally accurate. I know that everyone must say the exact same issue, but I just believe that you set it in a way that absolutely everyone can recognize. I also appreciate the images you place in the following. They suit so properly with what youre hoping to say. Im certain youll achieve so a lot of men and women with what youve obtained to say.

  2. Truman Lussier

    You created some decent points there. I looked on the internet for any issue and found most people should go as well as with the internet site.

  3. Alonso Perini

    Thanks a lot for sharing this with all folks you actually understand what you’re speaking about! Bookmarked. Please also discuss with my site =). We could have a link alternate arrangement among us!

  4. Diane Schutte

    I like to spend my free time by reading various internet recourses. Today I came across your site and I located it is as one of the best free resources available! Well done! Keep on this quality!

  5. Reggie Cauthon

    I believe you have remarked some very interesting details , appreciate it for the post.

  6. Quinton Laza

    An fascinating discussion will be worth comment. I do think that you should write on this topic, it might not often be a taboo subject but generally persons are insufficient to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

  7. Lucas Woodard

    ‘Thank you for this blog. That’s all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something that’s eye opening and important. You clearly know so much about the subject, youve covered so many bases. Great stuff from this part of the internet. Again, thank you for this blog.”

  8. Gabriela Burgoyne

    I have been meaning to write about something like this on my blog and this has given me an idea. Thanks.

  9. Tifany Stotesberry

    Can I recently say such a relief to locate somebody that truly knows what theyre referring to online. You certainly have learned to bring an issue to light making it crucial. More and more people need to see this and see why side of the story. I cant believe youre no more popular since you certainly have the gift.

  10. Noel Raguay

    That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied. I wish I had your insight.

  11. Jewel Ximenez

    Nice blog here! Also your website loads up fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  12. Jeffry Carboneau

    You got a very fantastic website, Glad I observed it through yahoo.

  13. Sacha Constine

    Loving the info on this site, you have done great job on the blog posts.

  14. Breanne Mauser

    You really should indulge in a contest for just one of the finest blogs on the internet. I am going to suggest this website!

  15. Olene Northwood

    Good info. Lucky me I reach on your website by accident, I bookmarked it.

  16. Zena Schuff

    Greetings! Very helpful advice on this article! It is the little changes that make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

  17. Barbara Rustin

    informed of any kind of updates. Fabulous work and much success in your business endeavors!

  18. Tyler Prinn

    Nice post. I find out something more difficult on different blogs everyday. Most commonly it is stimulating to learn content using their company writers and use a little something from their website. I’d prefer to use some while using the content in my small blog whether you do not mind. Natually I’ll give you a link on your own internet blog. Thank you sharing.

  19. Man Willsey

    I will immediately grab your rss feed as I can’t find your e-mail subscription link or newsletter service. Do you have any? Please let me know in order that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  20. Arturo Bartosh

    I have recently started a blog, and the information you provide on this site has helped me greatly. Thanx for all of your time & work.

  21. Marielle Boer

    Oh my goodness! a fantastic article dude. Thank you However I will be experiencing issue with ur rss . Do not know why Can not sign up for it. Is there any person acquiring identical rss problem? Anyone who knows kindly respond. Thnkx

  22. Peter Garinger

    I have recently started a blog, and the info you offer on this website has helped me greatly. Thanx for all of your time & work.

  23. Clifford Mazzone

    Thanks for the thoughts you talk about through this web site. In addition, a lot of young women who become pregnant tend not to even try to get medical health insurance because they worry they probably would not qualify. Although a few states currently require that insurers offer coverage no matter what about the pre-existing conditions. Prices on these kind of guaranteed options are usually higher, but when thinking about the high cost of medical care it may be your safer route to take to protect your current financial potential.


  1. The 3 Stages of Rehab and How it Works - UK Detox - […] 10 REASONS WHY PEOPLE CONTINUE TO USE DRUGS […]
Submit a Comment

Related Posts

Rehab vs Detox
Rehab vs Detox

Rehab vs Detox Rehab and detox are two types of treatment that play an important role in a person’s recovery from addiction. Find out whether detox or rehab—or both—should be a part of your treatment plan by talking to one of our team at UK Detox today.  Substance use...

read more
Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centres Near Me
Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centres Near Me

Alcohol And Drug Rehab Centres Near Me At UK Detox we help people struggling with alcohol and drug abuse or addiction issues find the best rehab centres in the UK. Whether you're looking for an 'alcohol rehab near me,' 'drug rehab near me,' ‘home detox,’ 'detox near...

read more