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The Thirteenth StepAddiction in the Age of Brain Science$
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Markus Heilig

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231172363

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231172363.001.0001

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The Thirteenth Step

Markus Heilig

Columbia University Press

This chapter considers the link between impulsivity and addiction. It shows that in the absence of protective family and societal factors, children who are impulsive have a higher risk for developing heavy drug use or addiction. Heavy chronic drug use, on the other hand, will make these individuals even more impulsive, in a truly vicious circle. By the time this dynamic has a person firmly in its grip, not even the happiness of a truly beloved child can successfully compete with the immediate attraction of a few drinks. This is not because the person is unable to do the math in theory. It is because when these real-life decisions are made, they are made in real time. And when that processing is carried out, the valuation, decision making, and behavioral inhibition machinery simply does not do the job it is supposed to do. Decades of work in this field have shown that this is not a moral failing but rather a malfunction of sophisticated yet quite sensitive computational hardware.

Keywords:   decisions, decision-making, addiction, addicts, impulsivity

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