Discerning Cokeheads Choose Money Before Cocaine (Study)

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For the sophisticated cocaine addict, when it's a choice between "money now, coke later" and "coke now, money later" (or "coke now, no coke later"? or "money now, no money later"?) the winner is usually "money now, coke later." This is according to a study led by a psychology professor at Virginia Tech, in which recovering coke addicts were given a choice between all of these options. (We assume that they were not given any actual cocaine, and that it was more of a thought experiment, given that they were all addicts.)

The study went a little something like this:

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.

Well, sure. More money now enables you to buy more drugs later.

The lead author of the study explained:

We showed that a delayed drug is discounted more than when the drug is immediately available, no matter what the other option is. In other words, drug users are less likely to use drugs when the choice to use is presented only as a future outcome rather than an immediately available one. For treatment programs for which abstinence is reinforced immediately and drug consumption is available only after a delay, the incentive to abstain may outweigh future drug consumption.

We've known some cokeheads in our day. Usually, since they had enough money to be cokeheads in the first place, the choice between "coke now" and "money now" was a non-issue. Anyway! Don't do drugs.

[rgray@villagevoice.com] [@_rosiegray]

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