Saturday, April 11, 2009

Curing the Desire to Steal

William Saletan writes about a new study indicating that a drug used to treat drug addiction seems to curb the desire to steal.

It sounds like an April Fools' joke. But it isn't. In an interview with Reuters, the study's lead author explains that naltrexone "gets rid of that rush and desire" to steal.

Naltrexone is better known as a drug for alcohol or drug addiction. Many of us, while accepting these addictions as diseases, continue to regard theft as a matter of personal responsibility. Should we rethink that distinction? If the same drug relieves both conditions, should we take kleptomania more seriously as an illness?

Modern medicine continues to find biological evidence behind all sorts of acts, good and bad. It's exciting, but also a little scary. How long is it before we have pills to change any sort of behavior? It sounds great if you have a pill that stops a person from wanting to molest children, but what if you have a pill that say, makes kids not want to take risks? I mean, you don't want your kids climbing tall trees or riding a bike down a steep hill sans helmet, right? Of course it sounds absurd now to talk about extremes, but one of the problems with modern science is that new advances are coming faster than we have time to think them through to see how best to properly assimilate them into our society. Actually, probably an even bigger issue is that so many people seem disinclined to discuss these issues up front and would rather wait until after it presents a concrete issue to step back and say, "You know, we should think about this for a second."

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