Health Psychology: Substance Misuse


DEFINITION: Health Psychology

  • Study of how our mental and physical health can be assessed.
  • Develops understanding of what causes bad/good health from cognitive, social, biological approaches as health is a state of mental, physical and social well-being.
  • Health Psychologists use this to promote good health.
  • E.G: They investigate biological causes for substance misuse, such as genetic predisposition, and the physical action of drugs in the brain.
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DEFINITION: Substance Misuse

  • Intake of drugs in quantites that are potentially damaging to physical or mental health.
  • E.G: nicotine and alcohol. Interference in school and family could lead to harder drugs.
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  • Tiny gaps between neurons that neurotransmitters pass across, enabling chemical communication between neurons.
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DEFINITION: Psychological Dependence

  • A feeling of satisfaction and a drive that results in an individual having to carry on taking drugs to produce continuous pleasure.
  • Drug taking becomes central to the users life therefore making withdrawal difficult to maintain due to habit.
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DEFINITION: Physical Dependence

  • A compulsion to keep taking drugs due to a change in the neurochemistry of the brain which substitutes normal bodily functions resulting in the body needing to continue taking the drugs in order to feel normal.
  • User experiences both tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
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  • When individual is physically dependent on drugs and has to take increasing amounts to feel the effects they experienced when they first took the drug.
  • It occurs with mant drugs including heroine, cocaine and alcohol.
  • It can be a result of down regulation (decrease of number/sensitivity of receptors) OR an increase in enzymes in the liver which break the drug molecules down.
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Why Substance Misuse Starts - Cog/Soc/Bio

COGNITIVE: Receives positive information of substance and the benefits from it.

SOCIAL: Social Identity Theory - ingroup rake substances. peer pressure of group, parents behaviours/beliefs.

BIOLOGICAL: Nature - inherit addictive personality. Nurture - mother takes drugs the child becomes dependent on drugs too.

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Treating Substance Misuse

COGNITIVE: CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) - change the way people think of something, from positive to negative thoughts.

SOCIAL: change ingroup.

BIOLOGICAL: detox - small amounts of drugs given to individual. Drug replacement.

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Preventing Substance Misuse

COGNITIVE: educated about the negative side effects of drugs to prevent consumption.

SOCIAL: selective of who joins ingroup/what ingroup to join.


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Two Types of Drugs

  • Prescribed - Medically required.
  • Psychoactive - Taken recreationally for their mind altering effects.
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DEFINITION: Withdrawal

  • Unpleasant physical effects experienced by a physically dependent drug user as the effects of a drug wear off.
  • Withdrawal symptoms are generally the opposite of the effects of the drug and can include vomiting, shaking, depression and headaches.
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