Biological and Learning Explanations for Substance Misuse

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  • Created on: 26-05-12 14:06
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Biological Explanations of Substance Misuse Learning Explanations of Substance Misuse
When drugs are taken, it alters the availability of one or more Social Learning Theory:
neurotransmitter and therefore has an impact on mood and/or Substance misuse is learned via role models (someone you identify
behaviour. with).
Depressant drugs slow down the brains working activity, so the It is often thought that parents and peers have an effect on the use of
transmission of messages slows down between neurons making it less drugs. Positive reinforcement occurs when there is a reward of being
effective. part of a group. Group activity, so behaviour is likely to be repeated.
Stimulants make the stimulation of one neuron to another easier, so High status drug users will have more of an impact on the individual.
transmission is over productive, and more effective. Many variables which affect the uptake of drugs: age of adolescent,
Repeated drug use has the ability to alter chemical balance in the brain, frequency of use in peer group, community attitudes, exposure.
which could be potentially dangerous. This is because the level of Vicarious learning is a key part to social learning theory. Seeing family
neurotransmitters is regulated by a clever feedback system which is and friends enjoy smoking (despite the initial bad experience) rewards
used to prevent over or under production. induviduals vicariously, and so they decide to smoke to.
A psychoactive drug would cause under or over production and Operant Conditioning:
artificially change the correct level (chemical imbalance), and the Mainly based on negative reinforcement linked to removal of
mechanisms in the brain therefore adjust the level of natural production withdrawal symptoms.
of neurotransmitters. After an individual begins to take the drug a lot, when they have a gap
Both dopamine and serotonin systems are involved in drug misuse and of not taking it withdrawal will occur. By taking the drug you remove
addiction. what can often be horrible withdrawal symptoms,
The person there fore need to carry on taking the drug as they can Classical Conditioning:
function normally, as to maintain neurotransmitter substances within the Feelings come from stimuli that are paired. If substance misuse gives
normal range for healthy functioning, this causes tolerance and pleasure which it does as it has a biological effect, anything related to
dependence on the drug. substance misuse, gives pleasure. E.g. syringes or an environment, gives
Difference people will become tolerant and dependant at different cues for pleasure.
rates. This may be to do with induviduals dopamine systems. Scientists This explanation makes relapse after treatment easy as when an
are currently investigating if there is such thing as an `addictive gene'. individual is put in a social situation where a drug taking context is the
Other elements may involve serotonin or endorphin deficiency. same, they may relapse.

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Biological Explanation Learning Explanation
Strengths Strengths
Evidence for the explanation is visible e.g. brain scans. It therefore has I explain why different cultures see misuse differently; as people make
validity. take drugs to seem cool, in order to gain reinforcement socially.
Animal studies have shown how receptors are altered by drug use, so Many drugs are known to reproduce a strong immediate effect, which
there is reliability, as these studies can be replicated do to the control. does therefore produce strong positive reinforcement.…read more

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Compare (Similarities) Contrast (Differences)
Both approaches are studies with experiments due to the What occurs in the brain is hard to study in real terms,
fact variables need to be controlled. However, this impacts whereas social learning theory is evident when we look at
heavily on the validity. social situations (ecological validity).
Both approaches are considered reliable due to the use of Biological approach is on the nature camp where as learning
animal testing, and similar findings in studies. is on the nurture side.…read more


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