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Drugs as instruments: A new framework for non-addictive psychoactive drug use


Aug 9, 2009
Northern Europe
Hey, I just saw that the new issue of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (Vol 34 | Issue 06, December 2011) is dedicated to drugs from a psychiatric perspective. It contains one core article (20 pages) and 19 open peer commentaries (1 page each approx.). Even if I don't study any related field, I found the topic to be of considerable personal interest and as of now I'm almost through the core article. I think it's really nice to see a shift away from drugs only being studied as evolutionary maladaptations, as well as someone trying to put an end to the myth that drugs can only be abused.

Abstract of core article:

Drugs as instruments: A new framework for non-addictive psychoactive drug use - Christian P. Müller, Gunter Schumann

Most people who are regular consumers of psychoactive drugs are not drug addicts, nor will they ever become addicts. In neurobiological theories, non-addictive drug consumption is acknowledged only as a “necessary” prerequisite for addiction, but not as a stable and widespread behavior in its own right. This target article proposes a new neurobiological framework theory for non-addictive psychoactive drug consumption, introducing the concept of “drug instrumentalization.” Psychoactive drugs are consumed for their effects on mental states. Humans are able to learn that mental states can be changed on purpose by drugs, in order to facilitate other, non-drug-related behaviors. We discuss specific “instrumentalization goals” and outline neurobiological mechanisms of how major classes of psychoactive drugs change mental states and serve non-drug-related behaviors. We argue that drug instrumentalization behavior may provide a functional adaptation to modern environments based on a historical selection for learning mechanisms that allow the dynamic modification of consummatory behavior. It is assumed that in order to effectively instrumentalize psychoactive drugs, the establishment of and retrieval from a drug memory is required. Here, we propose a new classification of different drug memory subtypes and discuss how they interact during drug instrumentalization learning and retrieval. Understanding the everyday utility and the learning mechanisms of non-addictive psychotropic drug use may help to prevent abuse and the transition to drug addiction in the future.
Titles and authors of open peer commentaries:

Toward an evolutionary basis for resilience to drug addiction - Serge H. Ahmed

Drugs' rapid payoffs distort evaluation of their instrumental uses - George Ainslie

Drugs as instruments from a developmental child and adolescent psychiatric perspective - Tobias Banaschewski, Dorothea Blomeyer, Arlette F. Buchmann, Luise Poustka, Aribert Rothenberger, Manfred Laucht

Drug use as consumer behavior - Gordon Robert Foxall, Valdimar Sigurdsson

Nonaddictive instrumental drug use: Theoretical strengths and weaknesses - Andrew J. Goudie, Matthew J. Gullo, Abigail K. Rose, Paul Christiansen, Jonathan C. Cole, Matt Field, Harry Sumnall

Non-addictive psychoactive drug use: Implications for behavioral addiction - Mark D. Griffiths

Does drug mis-instrumentalization lead to drug abuse? - Tod E. Kippin

Drug instrumentalization and evolution: Going even further - Daniel H. Lende

Optimal drug use and rational drug policy - Geoffrey F. Miller

Sacramental and spiritual use of hallucinogenic drugs - Levente Móró, Valdas Noreika

The instrumental rationality of addiction - Hanna Pickard

Drug addiction finds its own niche - Alastair Reid

Why do we take drugs? From the drug-reinforcement theory to a novel concept of drug instrumentalization - Rainer Spanagel

But is it evolution…? - Roger J. Sullivan, Edward H. Hagen

Flaws of drug instrumentalization - Joel Swendsen, Michel Le Moal

Psychoactive drug use: Expand the scope of outcome assessment - Alfonso Troisi

Drugs, mental instruments, and self-control - Robert Van Gulick

Aspects of nicotine utilization - David M. Warburton

Governing drug use through neurobiological subject construction: The sad loss of the sociocultural - Kevin Chien-Chang Wu


Authors' response: To use or not to use: Expanding the view on non-addictive psychoactive drug consumption and its implications - Christian P. Müller, Gunter Schumann


Aug 15, 2009
NJ (at the trainstation)
"people who are regular consumers of psychoactive drugs are not drug addicts" WAT?????

"We argue that drug instrumentalization behavior may provide a functional adaptation to modern environments"....to down you.


Feb 24, 2011
where i can see you
I'm rather surprised to hear you say that, sekio. you're a mod in ADD, and while i realize that maybe the ratio of quality technical discussion vs. "hey should i take compounds that have been rushed to market?" has gone a bit downhill in past few years, still surprises me that you would view all substance use as an undesirable cop-out.

honestly, i guess i'm not the only one who views the deep understanding of one's self and the mind's relation to material existence is worth the hassle. i have been dependent on substances at times, but even having been thru that, i'd still choose to use the "instruments" to expand my reservoir of experiences. and the 'modern' life that you interpret as being stressful in a bad way can be stressful in a good way to those who have (or are getting) their lives together. there is reward to be had for those who can define their lives in such a way as to permit room for this kind of exploration. this is not just the reward of excessive pleasurable stimulation, either.

thanks for posting the info, lulzkiller. it's nice to see more open-minded research getting published. i was alive during the height of the 'war on drugs' and the propaganda was so thick. seems like time to start reconsidering some of the hard-line positions, before the escalating violence used in the prosecution of said war leads to extremes like lining up pot smokers for the firing squad.

Father Apoklyps

Nov 8, 2011
The Pit
"people who are regular consumers of psychoactive drugs are not drug addicts" WAT?????
For a person to be considered to have a substance use disorder, they are required (as is everything else) in the DSM-IV-TR, basically the textbook of the most generally accepted models of psychology, to have clinically significant distress and/or impairment. That's likely why smoking is not considered a disorder (though some critics argue that continued use, despite the negative health effects experienced), in addition to being more socially acceptable than other psychoactives. Basically,if it doesn't constitute a problem to your life, it isn't an addiction. Would having a cup of coffee every morning and experiencing headaches and tiredness as a caffeine substance abuse disorder? The DSM doesn't think so. Many people can smoke pot or drink socially on weekends and still perform fine. Salvia, LSD, and many more can also be used often by most people without causing much distress or impairment. Don't forget the lucky rare few that can use hard drugs with regularity without suffering ill effect. Tolerance is also a requirement for substance abuse disorder that many drugs do not cause. Most people regularly consume psychoactives of some kind without developing an addiction. There's also the school of thought that what we think of as addiction is more of a lifestyle choice.


Jul 13, 2006
Let us be reminded that dependence and addiction are not synonymous.


Notable to point out that drug use, both illicit and prescribed, would possibly be a means of tuning the modern drag to something workable. At one point or another Ive heard generally rational persons base their oppositions on the grounds that drug just aren't "natural". In an age of cars, industry, supplements, refined sugars, lysol, fluoridated water, triclosan, pesticides, BPA and the synthetic estrogen boys, antibiotics and just about every other advent of the last 200 years... pretty much fucked that 'unnatural' pooch to death already.


Moderator: BDD, OD
Staff member
Jul 21, 2002
Another BBS gem......this topic is perhaps better suited to some of the more 'open-minded' individuals in the philosophy or psychedelic-drug forums....

It is no secret that there exists various gradations in regards to what may be considered abuse-addiction-dependency, etc, etc.....I am sure that some people genuinely enjoy reading a garrulous elaboration on the subject, and find some sort of solace in a "new classification of different drug memory subtypes", etc, etc. Its not that they are perhaps incorrect; its just too ambiguous to be interesting for some of us who are less-enlightened.

On a personal note; through all my rather extensive psychoactive use, abuse, misuse, disuse (etc), I have yet to have an entheogenic experience (the closest would be actually be from acute heroin and BZD withdrawal psychoses- and assuming that 'he' doesn't have the head of three horrific dragons, it wasn't 'God' that I saw). Then again, on a technical note I was born without a soul, so my experiences may not be of value.


Aug 27, 2011
West Brisbane
This is one of the few magazines I would actually buy, though that article alone costs $45 bucks O_O
I wonder how much the magazine costs...

I really want to read up on all of these articles, if someone can link me to a free source I'd greatly appreciate it.


Jan 30, 2012
The magazine is not worth buying unless you want to lose your house for sure :). This is related to my territory and I'm very sceptical about the target article after having read the abstract only. However there are a few of the commentaries that seem good and it's very obvious that the authors of the target articles neglect some obvious variables apart from the obvious fact that if one embraces this then one must also embrace other very dubious things that relate to a great deal of other areas too (not wanted :)). You can probably borrow a copy of BBS from your university library to sit there and read but I wouldn't recommend buying it; the magazine costs a fortune and by judging from the abstract the target article isn't worth the 45 USD. Some of the commentaries might be worthwhile though.


Nov 23, 2007
Vancouver, Washington USA
"people who are regular consumers of psychoactive drugs are not drug addicts" WAT?????
The quote was:

Most people who are regular consumers of psychoactive drugs are not drug addicts
Meaning daily Rx drug use of psychoactives: such as SSRI anti-depressants, benzodiazepine anxiolytics, etc. The statistical majority of them can proceed with discontinuation of their regime without noted habituation or drug seeking behavior; i.e. not addicts.