The Economics of Addiction and Decision-Making

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Many addicts, whether in treatment or not, struggle with trying to stay sober or altogether quit their substance abuse. Meanwhile, many also do not know or understand what the whole deal is. This is because people who struggle with addiction have trouble with weighing things, setting goals, and rewarding achievements. This article tackles what goes into how addicts make decisions, and understanding this can make or break their sobriety.

delayed-gratification-patience-and-addiction

The Big Picture and The Long Run

“A bird in hand is better than two in the bush,” says a popular saying. After all, who wouldn’t want to have something, anything, right now, than wait for something more rewarding in tomorrow? This concept, called temporal discounting, puts more value on immediate rewards than those that come later on.

Research has shown that addicted people show higher temporal discounting rates, meaning those with addiction value immediate rewards so much more, even if it really is lesser than the long term ones. For example, if the rewards of using heroin came years later and the health problems that came with it happens right after shooting up, there will be no heroin addiction. This is because the affinity for instant rewards is considered integral to the problem of addiction.

Patience Isn’t A Virtue

Aside from temporal discounting, there is also such a thing as hyperbolic discounting, wherein the value people put on rewards is inconsistent and changes over time.

For example, if people were asked to choose between Php 1,000 now or Php 5,000 after a year, many people would choose Php 1,000. However, if people were asked to choose Php 1,000 in five years and Php 5,000 in six years, people would now choose Php 5,000 even if both choices have a one-year difference.

In other words, patience increases with time.

For addicts, however, they would feel fine staying sober for seven days instead of 8 and have a hard time staying so in the process. Meanwhile, they can stay opt to stay sober for 91 days instead of 90.

Here, impulsive behavior comes into play when it comes to decision-making. Addictive behavior increases a person’s impulsivity, and addicts would have a hard time tolerating the idea of having to wait for something.

Understanding Decision-Making in Addiction Recovery

How can people then recover from addiction?

Psychologists and addiction recovery experts believe that people have to bundle rewards as a way to better decision-making. For example, people need to see that refusing to drink one glass of liquor will mean that you will not drink more in the future, then the reward of not drinking now means you will not drink in the future.

This said, the key to recovery is to put value back into the bigger rewards, even if they are tied to the future. Addicts used to lose connection to the larger, bigger things in their lives and in order to recover, they have to reconnect with these things that are larger than the drugs or the alcohol–larger, enduring things such as family, career, and health.


At Bridges of Hope, we equip people with recovery and life skills that will allow them to turn away from their addictive behavior. We work hard to deal with the root of the addiction, which is the behavior and attitude of the person.

So if you have someone in your life who is struggling with addiction, steer them in the right direction.

Text 0917-509-8826 or Call 622-0193

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