One explanation of Addiction

Outline and Evaluate one explanation of addiction. Essay

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1. Outline and evaluate one explanation of smoking addiction (5+5 marks)
In the biological explanation of smoking addiction this model assumes that the
category of "being an addict," is very black and white, therefore you are either
an addict or you are not, you cannot be "slightly addicted." The biological
approach assumes that addiction is an illness, and assumes the problem lies
within the individual and not in society. It assumes it is irreversible and also
that it can be treated, but not cured. The approach says that an alcoholic must
abstain totally or they will relapse. The same is true of smoking. It assumes
that there is some underlying physiological abnormality that causes the
disorder. Furthermore the biological model explains the initiation of addiction
by referring to genetic predispositions (gene-mapping studies and twin
studies), reward pathways, neurotransmitter levels, and structural damage to
the brain. It uses a disease model. The individual is thought to have an illness
that they are not responsible for. It takes away blame but discourages people
from taking responsibility for themself.
Research into the role of biological approaches which feature brain
mechanisms in addictive behaviour has found that it has a very important role
to play. Evidence comes from research into alcohol, nicotine and opiate drug
addictions. Biological factors are also likely to operate in behavioural
addictions such as gambling. Reward systems are stimulated by both drugs and
behaviours. Gene mapping studies are now producing promising results
indicating that specific variations in genes are correlated with particular
addictions e.g. research by Stefansson et al 2008. However, a problem with the
biological explanation is that the effects of neurotransmitters are complex and
not fully understood. Furthermore, the effects of even one drug can be very
diverse, e.g. Ashton and Golding 1989 suggest that nicotine can simultaneously
affect a number of systems, including learning and memory, the control of pain,
and the relief of anxiety. Bizarrely, smoking nicotine can both increase arousal
and reduce stress. Therefore biological explanations are very complex. Another
limitation of the biological approach is that it ignores the effect of the social
context. People may associate the situations in which they take a drug or
gamble with great pleasure, therefore stimulation of the reward pathways
come from the situation as well as from the drug/behaviour. This means that if
someone always smokes at a party, the presence of those environmental
triggers will produce anticipation effects and strong cravings. Consequently,
drug taking may seem appropriate in some situations and may not generalise
to other situations. Evidence of this is the fact the most soldiers fighting in the
Vietnam War took drugs but spontaneously stopped using them when they
returned home. Another finding is that the effects of Ecstasy have been shown
to vary depending on whether rave music is present or absent. So we can argue
that the social context can clearly have a large impact on the addictions. Many
have also argued that Dopamine sensitivity and addiction are not inevitably
linked. Grant et al 1998 has shown that the dopamine system can be influenced
by social interactions. In a study of monkeys it was found that animals that lost
status also lost D2 receptors. Volkow 2003 claims that people who grow up in
stimulating, engaging surroundings are protected from addiction. She argues
that even if people are born with an insensitive dopamine system, if they
experience lots of interests and excitements in their daily lives, they are less

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Cognitive factors could
also affect people's addictions and ability to resist relapse. A purely biological
approach is clearly too reductionist, other factors are also involved. It could
also be argued that whether people relapse or not is a question of choice, of
free will. To take a purely biological approach is to take responsibility away
from people for their actions.
2. "The relapse rate for smokers in the first 3 months after trying to give
up is estimated to be 70%.…read more

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Cross-tolerance can
also occur. This is when exposure to one drug can produce tolerance to other
drugs that act by the same mechanisms. Drug tolerance often develops to some
aspects of drugs like tobacco and alcohol, but not other aspects of them. Some
people think that because they have become tolerant to some effects of tobacco
and alcohol, such as nausea, they are tolerant to all aspects of a drug. This is not
the case.…read more


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