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Cocaine addicts choose cash now over coke later

An interesting study in game theory, cocaine addiction, and how addicts value potential rewards payed in cocaine or cash. Via Freakonomics.

A new study by addiction and neuroscience researchers sheds new light on understanding how cocaine addicts make decisions, and how they value the drug against the immediate and delayed reward of other items, such as cash. The upshot is that addicts discount cocaine at a steeper rate than they do money, consistently choosing to have money now, rather than twice the value of cocaine later. Here’s how the experiment worked:

Forty-seven cocaine addicts (who were all seeking treatment) were asked to guess the number of grams of cocaine worth $1,000. They were each then given a series of choices: cocaine now versus more cocaine later; money now versus more money later; cocaine now versus money later; or money now versus cocaine later. The initial amount offered for the immediate choice has half of the full value, and the delayed amount was always the full value. Preference was almost exclusively given to the money now option, according to the study’s lead researcher, Warren K. Bickel, a psychology professor at Virginia Tech, and director of the Advanced Recovery Research Center there.

[Thanks Sam Hell!]

Posted By jamesk at 2011-08-16 12:15:07 permalink | comments
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Sami. : 2011-08-20 05:20:59
One of the best treatments for addiction, as seen in lots of clinical trials, is so-called "contingency management", which means giving some sort of reward (such as take-home methadone, cash, or non-cash redeemable voucher -- doesn't even have to be worth that much) in response to clean drug tests. In that case, people avoid using cocaine, opiates, nicotine, etc in return for a certain, defined reward in the future.
Sami. : 2011-08-20 05:14:01
As seen in lots of clinical trials, one of the best treatments for addiction is so-called "contingency management" which means giving some sort of reward (cash or non-cash redeemable voucher -- doesn't even have to be worth that much) in response to clean drug tests. In that case, people avoid using cocaine, nicotine, etc in return for a certain, defined reward in the future.
GK-OR : 2011-08-18 02:48:59
Gonna have to agree with oopadoop on this one. The results of this study are invalid unless proposing a real scenario with cash and cocaine present. Watch as they all choose the coke, do a bit, then try and talk the researchers into letting them change their minds.
Dononamous. : 2011-08-17 20:21:33
Whoops got too ahead of myself in a middle of the night stim-fueled response
oopadoop. : 2011-08-17 17:16:23
Seems like the participants would have a reasonable expectation of the researchers NOT giving them the cocaine.

I have a hard time relating the results of this study to reality.

xibalba. : 2011-08-17 00:06:53
They just want the money to go and buy more coke.
dononamous. : 2011-08-16 23:11:23
I probably because a large amount of money wont have you end up as retarded as a large amount of coke
Sil4s. : 2011-08-16 19:02:05
$1000 seems kinda a weird number to pick. ONe would think response depended on the size of money being offered. I can imagine a situation where a user might prefer $500 to $1000 worth of coke, but may choose $40 worth of coke over $20.

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