Psychology AQA A2 Detailed Addictive Behaviour Notes

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  • Created on: 20-08-14 10:48
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INITIATION: Addiction occurs when a person becomes reliant upon something to function normally.
Biological explanations of addiction focus on neurotransmitter substances in the brain, and on genetic
differences between people with addictions and people without addiction. According to a biological
model, a person would be most susceptible to addiction during the initiation phase because they
have a predisposed biological vulnerability. If a person managed to give up their addiction, a
biological predisposition would make them more susceptible to relapse.
Twins and families can be studied to determine how likely a person is to develop an addiction based
on how genetically related they are to others with an addiction. AGRAVAL- found that by comparing
MZ and DZ twins it has been found that 30-70% of drug addiction can be explained by genetics.
JANG ET AL -conducted a study using over 300 MZ and 300 DZ twins. He looked at the relationship
between alcohol use and personality and found that there was a connection between genetics and
antisocial personality characteristics and a connection between these antisocial personality
characteristics and alcoholism.
HAN ET AL- using over 300 MZ twins and around 200 DZ twin, came to the conclusion that the
major influences on the decision to use substances were environmental rather than genetic
MERIKANGAS ET AL -found that 36% of relatives of individuals with an alcohol disorder had also
been diagnosed with an alcohol-use disorder. However it is difficult to separate effects of genetics
and environmental influences in these situations.
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals necessary for the transfer of information within the nervous
system. Research suggests that both alcohol and nicotine affect the nervous system by increasing a
neurotransmitter called dopamine.
By genetically analysing individuals with addictions and comparing them to those without addictions it
is possible to determine what specific genes make a person more likely to start an addiction.
Specifically addicts with an A1 variant of the dopamine receptor gene have fewer dopamine
receptors in the pleasure centres of their brains. Therefore, they are more likely to become
addictions to drugs/behaviour that increase dopamine levels as this compensates for the deficiency
by stimulating the few dopamine receptors they have.
COMINGS ET AL -found that nearly 50% of smokers and ex-smokers have the A1 variant.
VOLKOW ET AL -found that participants with fewer dopamine receptors enjoyed the feeling of
Ritalin releasing dopamine in their brain compared to those with more dopamine receptors. Those
with less dopamine receptors are more vulnerable to drug stimulation which is why some people
continue to take drugs after first trying them, whereas others do not have more than one
Genetic explanation helps us to understand individual difference concerning how some people
become addicted because they are genetically vulnerable, compared to others who do not develop
an addiction despite having the same environmental experiences.

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However, COMINGS ET AL -also found that the A1 gene variant occurs in patients with disorders
other than addictions such as autism and Tourettes's, indicating that the gene variant may not be
specifically related to addiction.
VOLKOW ET AL -suggested that just because a person has fewer dopamine receptors and may be
more vulnerable, this doesn't mean that they will definitely develop an addiction, because they
may be brought up in surroundings that are stimulating enough to protect against addiction.…read more

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shows that biochemistry of the brain has a big role in the development of addiction.
CORRELATIONAL: The research put forward to support the biological model is based mainly on
correlational studies; correlations can only show relationships between two variables but
shows no indication of the causes behind the relationship. Psychologists have argued that the
release of hormones such as dopamine and serotonin may just be symptoms of addiction and
the underlying problem is due to the addict's cognitions or behaviour.…read more

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VINK- also reported that nicotine dependence was influenced primarily by genetic factors. Research
also suggest that mothers who smoke heavily while pregnant were more likely to have children
who, should they start smoking, were more likely to become addicted.
LERMAN ET AL (1999) showed that those carrying a particular gene were less likely to take up
smoking, and we noted that this gene worked in the dopamine system in the brain.…read more

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However, by regarding smoking addiction as a biological problem, this create the possibility
that it may be treated by various pharmacological methods.
REDUCTIONIST: Biological explanations of addictions are essentially reductionists as they
reduce a complex phenomenon down to a relatively simple level of explanations such as an
imbalance of brain chemicals or the influences of specific genes. It is also deterministic as it
suggests that certain people are more likely to become addicted to something.…read more

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MAINTENANCE: WRAY ET AL (1981) reported that gamblers who are prevented from gambling
often report changes that resemble withdrawal symptoms.
ORFORD ET AL (1996) compared alcoholics and problem gamblers. The two groups reported similar
levels of perceived strength of addictions, even though problem gamblers reported less intense
withdrawal and less dependence.
POTENZA ET AL (2003) investigated urge or craving states in men diagnosed with pathological
gambling disorder.…read more

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INITIATION: Cognitive explanations for addictive behaviour focus on how faulty judgements can
cause and maintain addiction. According to Beck, the cognition model of addiction indicates that
addicts find themselves in a vicious circle: a low mood is relieved by engaging in the addictive
behaviour, which leads to low mood.
On way in which faulty thinking presents itself is heuristics, mental shortcuts that allow us to make
judgements quickly and efficiently with minimal mental processing effort.…read more

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SCIENTIFIC METHODS: Cognitive psychologists' emphasis on scientific methods is a strength
of their approach, although some would question the value of their experimental research,
which often makes use of very contrived and unrealistic tasks and measures which may not
adequately reflect real-world psychological and behavioural processes.
THERAPIES: On a practical level the cognitive approach has led to the development of useful
ways of understanding and treating psychological disorders.…read more

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The smoker may expect the withdrawal experience to be
extremely unpleasant, and this expectancy informs their self-efficacy. It may well be that some
people find that it is relatively easy to stop smoking, whereas others find it extremely difficult.
RELAPSE: Coping, expectancy and self-efficacy can all explain why a smoker may relapse. In terms of
coping, the negative feelings of the withdrawal period can be relieved almost immediately by taking
another cigarette.…read more

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Griffiths observed both regular and occasional
gamblers and found that regular gamblers were more likely to express irrational thoughts such as
believing that they has skill or control over the gambling machine.
RELAPSE: In simple terms, the withdrawal effects from gambling may not be too serious. The
gambler may not experience any feelings of illness and when compared with other addictions, the
withdrawal symptoms can be very mild.…read more


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