Vulnerabilities to Addiction

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  • Vulnerability to Addiction
    • Stress
      • Everyday stress
        • Addiction is generally associated with relieving anxiety. People report that they drink, smoke, gamble etc. as a means of coping with daily hassles such as relationship problems, money worries and workplace stress. Such stressors may contribute to initiation and continuation of addictions, as well as relapse after a period of abstinence.
      • Traumatic Stress
        • Research has found that people exposed to severe stress are more vulnerable to addictions, especially children who have experienced parental loss, for example. PTSD is also linked to adddiction. Driessen et al (2008) found that 30% of drug addicts and 15% of alcoholics also suffered from PTSD. The researchers found that mere trauma was not enough to lead to an addiction.
      • Evaluation
        • Despite the fact that many smokers say they smoke to relieve stress, smoking actually increases stress levels. Stress may be a risk factor for addiction but the addiction does not have the desired effect. Paradoxically, once a smoker has taken up smoking it may become stress reducing due to withdrawal symptoms.
        • Stress may create a vulnerability in some people but not all. Cloniger suggested that there are two different kinds of alcoholics. Type 1 drink to relieve tension. Type 2 drink to relieve boredom.
    • Personality
      • Some psychologists believe there is an addictive personality. Eysenck (1997) identifies three personality dimensions.
        • Psychoticism is characterised by aggression, coldness, egocentricity and impulsivity
        • Neuroticism is characterised by anxiety, moodiness and irritability.
          • There is a convincing link between pychoticism and neuroticism with drug dependence.
            • Psychoticism is characterised by aggression, coldness, egocentricity and impulsivity
        • Extraversion is characterised by sociability, liveliness and optimism.
          • There is little evidence to support a link between extraversion and drug dependance
      • Evaluation
        • One issue with the concept of an addictive personality relates to the fact that research is only correlational. Certain personality traits may be common amongst addicts, however, this does not mean they will predict addictive behaviour, it means they are simply correlated. It may be the addiction causes the personality traits.
        • Research has found that evidence in rats that personality comes first. Belin et al placed rats in a device where they could self-administer doses of cocaine. One group of rats were sensation seekers and immediately began taking large doses. The second group were high in impulsivity and started with lower doses and were the ones to become addicted.
        • Weintraub et al (2010) assessed individuals suffering from Parkinson's disease. Such individuals are treated with drugs that increase dopamine levels to combat their symptoms. A side effect appears to be a 3.5 fold increase in impulse-control disorders, including gambling and sex addiction. This study suggests that high levels of dopamine lead to impulsivity.
        • Bucholtz et al indicated that addictions may simply be more rewarding for people with certain personality types because those people have a more hypersensitive dopamine response system.They speculate that a heightened response to an anticipated reward could make such individuals less fearful about the consequences of their behaviour.
    • Peers
      • Peer pressure is also cited as a common reason for why adolescents in particular develop addictive behaviours. Research suggests that smokers befriend smokers and non-smokers befriend other non-smokers.
        • Social learning theory
          • Behaviours are learned through the observation of others and subsequent modelling of the behaviour. Young people are most likely to imitate the behaviour pf those with whom they have the most social contact. Once they have started smoking, experiences with the new behaviour determines whether it persists or not.
        • Social identity theory
          • This assumes that group members adopt those norms and behaviours that are central to the social identity of the group. In peer groups where status as 'smoker' or 'non-smoker' is central to the social identity of the group, individuals are likely to be similar to one another in their smoking habits.
      • Adolsecent problem gambling has been shown to be strongly correlated to parental attitudes.
      • Evaluation
        • Many of the hypotheses consistent with the importance of social context in smoking has been supported by research. Research has supported that exposure to peer models increases the likelihood that teenagers will begin smoking. There is also plentiful support for perceived rewards, such as social status.
        • Although there is evidence to support the claim that adolescents are motivated to begin smoking because of the stereotypes they hold of specific social crowds, little is known about the extent to which these groups influence their members to smoke. Nor do we know whether adolescents are impervious to the demands of social groups when these evidently conflict with their own concerns to have a healthy lifestyle.
    • Age
      • The influence of peers on smoking and drug use appears to wane in later adolescents and the role of close friends and particularly romantic partners, becomes increasingly important as an influence on attitudes and behaviours especially those that are health-related. Therefore, it is likely that the social crowd might have a greater impact on smoking and drug use for young adolescents, while the close friends and romantic partner play a greater role later on
      • There is often a lot of media coverage about the problem of addiction in young people, particularly adolescents. It seems that the younger generations are much more vulnerable to developing an addiction. It may be there is something different about the adolescent brain that we do not know yet. In Shram's study on rats, nicotine was found to have a greater effect on the neural structures of adolescents.
      • Evaluation
        • Shram's evidence supports the idea that the brains of younger people could be different to those of adults and consequently makes them more vulnerable to addiction. This does not explain the high amount of adult addicts and research into this has proved inconclusive


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