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Meth and Crack Addicts Are Rational Decision Makers

There is a fascinating profile of Big Think expert Carl Hart in today's Science Times that delves into this researcher's unorthodox practices - offering addicts a chance to make $950 for smoking crack - and his surprising conclusion: the majority of crack addicts and methamphetamine addicts are rational decision-makers. 

Researchers in Hart's lab study the natural behavior of addicts and start the day by offering the subjects varied doses of crack. But here's the twist:

Then, after that sample of crack to start the day, each participant would be offered more opportunities during the day to smoke the same dose of crack. But each time the offer was made, the participants could also opt for a different reward that they could collect when they eventually left the hospital. Sometimes the reward was $5 in cash, and sometimes it was a $5 voucher for merchandise at a store.

When the dose of crack was fairly high, the subject would typically choose to keep smoking crack during the day. But when the dose was smaller, he was more likely to pass it up for the $5 in cash or voucher.

“They didn’t fit the caricature of the drug addict who can’t stop once he gets a taste,” Dr. Hart said. “When they were given an alternative to crack, they made rational economic decisions.”

Read more here.

In the video below, Hart briefs us on his research at Columbia and describes why his project is important.

Watch here:

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