Researchers at the University of Cambridge have published a startling article in Science Magazine stating that drug addicts may have brain abnormalities that give them a predisposition toward addiction. It could radically change how we view addiction and its causes.
The parts of the brain that appear to differ deal with impulse control. The scientists compared abnormal brains of subjects with their siblings with normal brains and found a pronounced difference in the rate of addiction. Some 50 biological sibling pairs were tested as well as 50 healthy, unrelated pairs of people. The question is how such research would affect our laws and sentencing. This would suggest a physical predisposition. We already have laws that allow mitigation due to drug or alcohol addition, but this research could move addiction even closer to disability categories. The research however does not suggest a total predisposition or the inability to resist taking drugs in the first place.
The new article brings to mind the recent research showing teen brains develop later than previously thought (particularly in the area of risk appreciation and judgment). That would make this something of a perfect storm for some teens who (with most teens) lack brain development on risk judgment plus a predisposition for addiction.
While not to take away from the medical and legal interest in this story, I must admit that the story also inevitably brings this scene to mind: