Biological Interventions for Addiction

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  • Biological Interventions
    • Agonist drugs
      • Agonist agents mimic the effect of the previously used drug, e.g. methadone. They can desensitise receptors in the brain, relieving withdrawal symptoms and stopping cravings. In a study, there were significantly higher abstinence rates in those who used agonist drugs.
    • Antagonist drugs
      • These prevent the user from experiencing the positive effect of the abused drug. An example is bupropion which works by locking nicotine receptors in the brain. More than 1 in 10 people who take Zyban suffer from difficulty sleeping and 1 in 100 suffer from other negative side effects.
    • Punishment agents
      • These produce an aversive reaction following the ingestion of the drug. These punishment agents are generally not effective as the patient refuses to take them as prescribed
    • Evaluation
      • Some drug addicts can become as reliant on methadone as they were on heroin, thereby substituting one addiction for another. Methadone is also controversial as it was responsible for the death of over 300 people in the UK.
      • Blanco et al (2002) showed that over 6 months, 32 gamblers failed to demonstrate any superiority for SSRI treatment over a placebo.
      • Natrexone is found to be effective in the treatment of gambling thoughts and behaviours after 6 weeks of treatment.
      • Cohen and Cohen describe a phenomenon called the 'clinicians illusion'. They argue that many clinicians believe addictions are very hard to treat. The lack of screenings mean clinicians only meet patients when their condition is well-advanced.


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