The brain is obviously much more complicated than we can comprehend, even nowadays. In my point of view, however, it's a lot more controlled than we tend to give it credit for. Most of the things we do, we do without knowing our subconscious motivation, for example our circumstances can play a big role in the decisions we make. Whether we realize that we make decisions for specific reasons or not, it does not diminish the fact that we do.
For oh so many years people have been saying that "drugs are bad mmmkay?" Well, research dating back to the late 70s had already proven that it's not the drugs that are so addictive, but rather the conditions that drug-abusers are under. This research involved rats which were given heroin to test its addictiveness. The resulting conclusion was that “drugs do not cause addiction”, “the apparent addiction to opiate drugs (...) is attributable to their living conditions, and not to any addictive property of the drug itself.”* Previous experiments had been performed under such terrible conditions, that the circumstances interfered with the reliability of the results. In 2001 the researcher Alexander went to the Canadian Senate to reveal his findings, but, as we should expect, they went by unappreciated.
In order to support his hypothesis, Alexander administered morphine hydrochloride for 57 days to 16-20 Rats of different sexes, after which they were placed in cages nearly 200 times the size of a standard laboratory cage, with an abundance of food and plenty to play with. When given the choice between plain tap water and water laced with morphine, for the most part plain water was chosen. As a result: "Nothing that we tried," Alexander wrote, "... produced anything that looked like addiction in rats that were housed in a reasonably normal environment." This research, however, only received negative feedback from the mainstream press.
In 2010 Alexander, together with a few other scholars, published another article with the title "A Change of Venue for Addiction: From Medicine to Social Science". In the first paragraph he already clearly explicates that: "Global society has failed to control a devastating flood of addiction to drug use and innumerable other habits. A century of scientific research has not produced a durable consensus on what addiction is, what causes it, and how it can be remedied. Physicians, addiction counsellors, social workers, and psychologists only succeed with a minority of addicted clients. Police and soldiers find themselves drafted into a cruel and futile "war on drugs". Hi-tech neuroscience, education, harm reduction, and spirituality cannot control today's flood of addiction either. The only real hope of controlling the flood of addiction comes from the social sciences, which are uniquely suited to replace society's worn-out formulas with a more productive paradigm."
Still, the media persists in its outdated depiction of these harmful substances, when in reality it is most probably due to our circumstances that addictions are acquired. Naturally every user, after the intake of opiates, will experience withdrawal signs and these drugs are definitely things that can keep trying to pull you back into their delirium. Where researchers differ in their conclusions is the extent to which self-control can be exerted. If our circumstances would have been better, the pull couldn't be so strong. Obviously we are lacking in ways on how to deal with our society, so in looking for solutions perhaps we should direct our periphery towards the offering of actual information, rather than encouraging the publication of false statements and blatantly making substances illegal.