Comparison of explanations of substance misuse (biological & learning)

  • Created by: Michaela
  • Created on: 02-04-14 18:45

Comparison of explanations of substance misuse (biological & learning)


  • Both explanations can be tested through the use of animal studies
  • It can be hard to generalise research collected on animals into data that can be applied to humans
  • Neither can provide reason as to why some may be more prone or less likely to become addicted
  • Both explain how we might react to our withdrawal symptoms


  • The learning approach explains why we may start to take drugs whereas the biological looks at why we may become addicted
  • The biological approach allows for scientific testing (PET scans) whereas the learning approach doesn't as it cant explain the effects on our bodies
  • The biological explanation gives evidence for the nature argument as supported by Klien et al (2008) - there was genetic link to experience of withdrawal of heroin. However, the learning provides evidence for the nurture argument as supported by Morton et al (2001) - more involved parenting was linked to lower risk of drug use
  • The biological approach cannot explain cultural differences where as the learning can suggest how our surroundings can contribute to our likelihood of becoming a user (in Holland it is legal, influencing chances of using)

Overall comparison

The biological neurotransmitter approach cannot explain how we are first introduced to drugs unlike the social learning theory which suggests our influences or likelihood of accessing drugs. Although, the biological can looks at the resulting effects of addiction unlike the learning which is evident through study and scan reports.


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