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A Theory of Natural Addiction

  • Smith, Trenton G.
  • Tasnadi, Attila

Economic theories of rational addiction aim to describe consumer behavior in the presence of habit-forming goods. We provide a biological foundation for this body of work by formally specifying conditions under which it is optimal to form a habit. We demonstrate the empirical validity of our thesis with an in-depth review and synthesis of the biomedical literature concerning the action of opiates in the mammalian brain and their effects on behavior. Our results lend credence to many of the unconventional behavioral assumptions employed by theories of rational addiction, including adjacent complementarity and the importance of cues, attention, and self-control in determining the behavior of addicts. Our approach suggests, however, that addiction is “"harmful"” only when the addict fails to implement the optimal solution. We offer evidence for the special case of the opiates that harmful addiction is the manifestation of a mismatch between behavioral algorithms encoded in the human genome and the expanded menu of choices–generated for example, by advances in drug delivery technology –faced by consumers in the modern world.

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File URL: http://purl.umn.edu/19195
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Paper provided by American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association) in its series 2005 Annual meeting, July 24-27, Providence, RI with number 19195.

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Date of creation: 2005
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Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea05:19195
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  1. O'Donoghue, Ted & Rabin, Matthew, 2002. "Addiction and Present-Biased Preferences," Working Papers 02-10, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
  2. Michael Grossman & Frank J. Chaloupka & Ismail Sirtalan, 1995. "An Empirical Analysis of Alcohol Addiction: Results from the Monitoring the Future Panels," NBER Working Papers 5200, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Bergstrom, T., 1995. "Economics of a Family Way," Papers 95-07, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
  4. Smith, Trenton G, 2002. "Obesity and Nature's Thumbprint: How Modern Waistlines Can Inform Economic Theory," University of California at Santa Barbara, Economics Working Paper Series qt31g1m028, Department of Economics, UC Santa Barbara.
  5. Kahneman, Daniel & Wakker, Peter P & Sarin, Rakesh, 1997. "Back to Bentham? Explorations of Experienced Utility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 375-405, May.
  6. Ted Bergstrom, 1995. "Economic in a Family Way," Papers _028, University of Michigan, Department of Economics.
  7. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
  8. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1985. "The Expanding Domain of Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(6), pages 53-68, December.
  9. Laibson, David, 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(2), pages 443-77, May.
  10. Jack Hirshleifer, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," UCLA Economics Working Papers 087, UCLA Department of Economics.
  11. B. Douglas Bernheim & Antonio Rangel, 2003. "Addiction and Cue-Conditioned Cognitive Processes," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 666156000000000052, www.najecon.org.
  12. Fehr, Ernst & Zych, Peter K, 1998. " Do Addicts Behave Rationally?," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 100(3), pages 643-62, September.
  13. Faruk Gul & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 2001. "Temptation and Self-Control," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(6), pages 1403-1435, November.
  14. Laibson, David I., 2000. "A Cue-Theory of Consumption," Scholarly Articles 4481496, Harvard University Department of Economics.
  15. Trenton G. Smith, 2004. "The McDonald’s Equilibrium. Advertising, empty calories, and the endogenous determination of dietary preferences," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 383-413, December.
  16. Orphanides, Athanasios & Zervos, David, 1998. "Myopia and Addictive Behaviour," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(446), pages 75-91, January.
  17. Loewenstein, George, 1996. "Out of Control: Visceral Influences on Behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 272-292, March.
  18. Orphanides, Athanasios & Zervos, David, 1995. "Rational Addiction with Learning and Regret," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 103(4), pages 739-58, August.
  19. Hirshleifer, Jack, 1977. "Economics from a Biological Viewpoint," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-52, April.
  20. Gary S. Becker & Michael Grossman & Kevin M. Murphy, 1990. "An Empirical Analysis of Cigarette Addiction," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 61, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  21. Larry Samuelson, 2004. "Information-Based Relative Consumption Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(1), pages 93-118, 01.
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  25. Ainslie, George, 1991. "Derivation of "Rational" Economic Behavior from Hyperbolic Discount Curves," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(2), pages 334-40, May.
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