Wednesday, 20 August 2014

How responsible are we?

Last week there was a really fascinating article published entitled "Neuropsychosocial profiles of current and future adolescent alcohol misusers" which got me thinking about how responsible are we really for our actions?

Now, while I do believe that most often we are responsible for our actions. This study indicates that there are also clearly times when we are not responsible for our actions. In essence someone can start to abuse alcohol due to a combination (or a single factor) of life experiences, neurobiological differences as well as personality. As such when someone does something under the influence of alcohol and they possess a risk profile are they actually culpable? I would say yes, as you should be responsible for you actions, even if it is beyond your control. This is important for society to function and so we should prosecute people that are under the influence doing bad things to maintain a respectable society.

However, what got me thinking even more is that should we not be banning alcohol to protect society and individuals at large. If these risk profiles exist and alcoholism can be so easily influenced by not just genetic but life experiences is it not societies prerogative to take action and help those that cannot help themselves. This is surely true when we consider the publicly funded campaigns against smoking which is more an annoyance than a risk in most cases. Think about it, has a person ever got into a fight after smoking one too many cigarettes? In fact, these anti-smoking campaigns exist not only for personal protection  but societal protection. They are around in part to alleviate the burden on society that comes from health problems associated with smoking.

Now, whether you agree with my analysis or not.  It is my opinion that this type of research raises very important questions about what we as a society should or should not be doing, and unlike other issues this is grounded in fact.