Policy Forum

Is It the Drug? Rethinking Conventional Views of Substance Use, Abuse, and Addiction

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Date and Time
December 5, 2019 12 - 1:30 PM EST
F.A. Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute
Featuring Jacob Sullum, Senior Editor, Reason; Author, Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use; Stanton Peele, Psychologist and Addiction Therapist; Author, The Meaning of Addiction; Coauthor, Love and Addiction and Outgrowing Addiction; Joycelyn Elders, Former Surgeon General of the United States and Professor Emerita of Pediatrics at University of Arkansas School of Medicine; Mitch Earleywine, Professor of Psychology and Director of the Habits and Lifestyles Laboratory at SUNY Albany; Suzanne A. Sisley, President and Principal Investigator, Scottsdale Research Institute; moderated by Jeffrey A. Singer, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute.

The disease model of drug addiction takes the view that the addict’s brain has been “hijacked” — that the addict has lost autonomy and self‐​control and has effectively become a zombie who is controlled by the drug. This model of understanding nonmedical drug use informs modern public policy, leading to policies that criminalize drug use and treat addicts with punishment and coerced treatment.

Yet many scholars and experts reject this disease model of addiction. Instead, they consider nonmedical drug use a form of learning disorder in which compulsive behavior is an automatized means of coping with stress triggers. Come hear a distinguished panel of experts discuss a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of substance use and addiction that can produce an enlightened public policy.