1. Addiction is a choice and is NOT a disease or disorder

Your client is responsible for their issues related to their use. Regardless of the fact that the public opinion sways in this regard and tends to see addiction as a disorder or disease, in the court of law, the consequences of crimes committed while under the influence are seen no different (in general) than those committed while sober. This is obviously important depending on which side of the case you sit upon, whether you are the prosecutor or the defense.

2. No one is out of control when getting high or drunk

The obvious caveat to this statement is if a person is passed out or overdosed, they have quite literally lost control of their ability to function. Barring this level of intoxication, the content of one’s thoughts are not changed by a substance. This nuance is very important, and is worth repeating. The content of one’s thoughts, are not changed by the pharmacological action of drugs on the brain and mind. The only drug where we get into a gray area on this fact is high levels of LSD ingestion. Barring that, what changes in mood or behaviors that occur when drinking and drugging are cultural in nature. As the book, The Freedom Model for Addictions, puts it,:

“There is a widespread belief in our culture that substances lower inhibitions, obliterating some mental barrier so that people become more open and honest about what they think, who they are and how they feel; in other words, when under the influence they show their true selves. Most people attribute the effects of alcohol and other substances to making them more sociable and outgoing, more forward and daring romantically or sexually, and to making them act more aggressively and offensively. It is as if people repress what they believe are their less socially acceptable moods and behaviors until they use drugs or alcohol. The belief is that substances have a pharmacological key that unlocks all of this behavior.

Although it’s true that many people feel empowered to behave differently when they use substances (e.g. alcohol as “liquid courage”), the claim that substances pharmacologically lower inhibitions is untrue and represents an illusion. The “drug, set, and setting,” understanding that was discussed in Chapter 17 explains this phenomenon perfectly. We used the comparison earlier in The Freedom Model between drinking at a wake versus drinking in a bar to demonstrate this general principle. However, the primary set and setting operative in creating these effects is so broad and subtle within our culture that it’s almost invisible. We’ve literally been immersed in it our entire lives. As such, it’s virtually impossible to step outside of it to see its influence. Luckily, mountains of data has been gathered by social scientists all around the world to demonstrate the fact that substances don’t truly lower inhibitions. We’ll be referring to this and other data throughout the chapter to question this class of substance effects; in so doing we’ll replace the belief in pharmacologically lowered inhibitions with the more accurate concept of a socially/culturally granted “license to misbehave” while intoxicated.”

3. Addiction is not genetic

Tthe person is responsible for the creation of their habit and the consequences of their actions when intoxicated. Again, this is covered in the book, The Freedom Model for Addictions:

“Thus far, science hasn’t verified a single “addiction gene,” nor has it explained how such a gene would cause people to want substances. Genetic determinists have now moved toward saying there’s probably a “cluster of genes” that somehow converge perfectly to make people addicts. But again, they don’t know exactly how this would work, or whether it’s really the case. As such, the question of whether genes are involved in heavy substance use is a very murky issue. But as we showed in the introduction, even if genes are involved, 9 out of 10 people get over their substance use issues anyway. Our position is that looking for this and other “causes” of addiction is a fruitless quest, and what’s even worse is it gets in the way of people making changes because these proposed causes end up functioning as an excuse for people to give up trying to change.

As a lawyer, it is vital to base your position as a prosecutor or as a defense on the facts. Knowing addiction is a series of cultural beliefs that an individual holds true, while also knowing that the beliefs that make up our Western disease-centered view of addiction are myths, can factor in to how you ultimately play out a case.