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“Protect me from what I want”: Addiction and behaviour.

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“Protect me from what I want”: Addiction and behaviour. . R.Fielding. Objectives. By the end of this lecture, you should be able to give two accounts of the concept of “addiction” a critique of the concept of “addiction” reasons why the concept of addiction is important.

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  • By the end of this lecture, you should be able to give
    • two accounts of the concept of “addiction”
    • a critique of the concept of “addiction”
    • reasons why the concept of addiction is important
why is addiction important
Why is addiction important?
  • Many health hazardous behaviours are explained by reference to “addiction” e.g. smoking, drug use, alcohol.
The explanation adopted for health hazardous behaviour has implications for both research and approaches to prevent or modify it.
what is addiction
What is addiction?
  • “Addiction” is an explanation which tries to explain why people do certain things.
  • It relies on a pharmacological explanation of the actions of a “drug” on receptors.
Addiction is interpreted as a consequence of the “need” of these receptors for the drug.
  • Somehow (this bit is rarely well explained) this receptor activity then compels people to continue to seek and use the drug.
problems with addiction
Problems with “addiction”
  • It takes no account of contexts, and in particular, social processes in determining behaviour.
  • Fails to address contextual cueing.
  • Classical conditioning reverses drug “effects”.
Most people do not become “addicted”.
  • Attribution theory suggests explanations are not causes.
  • While “addiction” is only an explanation, it is treated as a cause of complex behaviour.
social processes in behaviour
Social processes in behaviour
  • Drug use (smoking included) almost never begins as a solitary process independent of social influence; see
    • tobacco advertisments, “peer-pressure”, social norms, ritual, context (role of cigarettes in social settings/ smoking “joints”).
Norms are socially derived, serve to locate people within groups and control the interactions between them.
  • Social contexts largely drive group behaviours.
  • Studies repeatedly show “peer pressure” as the major influence on uptake of drug use.
contextual cueing
Contextual cueing
  • Many behaviours are cued by their context. Probably partly classically conditioned.
    • (Read Wieten p.192-199).
  • Police use this to jog memory in crime “reconstructions”
“Craving” (a key feature of the addiction hypothesis) has been shown to be closer in nature to the memory of the pleasant experience than to biological “need”.
reversal of drug effects
Reversal of drug “effects”
  • Seigel (1975), Turkkan (1989) describe wide range of studies demonstrating the pharmacological action of drugs can be reversed using classical conditioning.
most users do not become addicts
Most users do not become “addicts”
  • With the exception of tobacco (the most socially normal drug used) most substance users use the drugs in a controlled fashion. This would not be the case if the drugs themselves were the “cause” of the behaviour.
attributional theory
Attributional theory
  • How people’s explanations affect their behaviour.

“Addiction” dictates: If I’m taking drugs I must be addicted.

Attributional theory dictates:

If I’m called an “Addict’ then I can’t help taking drugs”.

so people use drugs because
So, people use drugs because:
  • they want to
  • they like to
  • they are socially cued to do so (cool)
  • it is one of the few options for behaviour open to them in limited social circumstances
  • “addiction” (the explanation) relieves them of personal responsibility for continued behaviour.
  • Addiction is a biologically-based explanation that fails to consider the psycho-social determinants of behaviour.
  • Research clearly demonstrates that drug effects are not absolute and can be altered by conditioning.
Social influences on drug taking encourage this behaviour while blame is placed on the drug, or the genes of the user, not the social attitudes that make it “cool” to do drugs. These attitudes are maintained by both social role models and industry.