Psychology A2 - Addiction


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  • Created by: will
  • Created on: 23-05-11 08:37

Stages of Substance abuse

Initiation        Maintenance        Cessation        Relapse


  • Refers to the process of a person becoming addicted.


  • The process where people continue to behave addictively despite the negative consequences.


  • Where a person tries to stop the addictive behaviour, e.g. nicotene replacement etc.


  • Where individuals who have previously managed to give up their addictive habits start to show signs and symptoms of the behaviour again.
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Biological model - Genetics

The idea that genes control whether or not you have an addiction, so you have a gene that codes for you to develop an addiction or have an addictive personality.

  • Kendler et al, In a study of identical twins (mono zygotic) reared individually, where one twin had a nicotine dependance it was estimated that 60%-70% of the other twins also had a nicotine dependance.
  • Heath and Martin, Similar as above, however with alcohol dependance and the concordance rate was 39%-60%.


  • Cannot be a full explanation of addiction, as the genetics do not count for 100%. Identical twins share 100% genes therefore using this information that if genes determined addiction, if one had an addiction the other twin would also have the addiction.
  • Deterministic, suggests that we do not have control over addiction, that if we have the gene for addiction we will become addicted. Whereas we do have free will to choose whether to become addicted and many factors contribute to whether we become addicted.
  • Ignores input from social and cognitive.
  • Reductionist, tries to explain a complex behaviour using only low level explanatioins, even though we know that a simple human behaviour is determined by many factors, never mind a complex one like addiction!
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Biological Model - Biochemical

This is where our behaviour(addiction) is controlled by neurotransmitters and chemicals in the brain, such as: Endorphins, dopamine etc.

  • HIgh levels of dopamine and endorphins are linked to addiction, these are our feel good chemicals that increase in concentration during an addictive activity e.g. smoking. Once the activity is stopped the levels of these chemicals drop, so we want that good feeling again and so repeat the behaviour.
  • Low serotonin levels are linked with being more impulsive, this is indirectly linked with being more likely to try risky addictive behaviours, hence more likely to start an addictive activity.


This is where we develop a tolerance to drugs, due to repeated use. Our brain becomes adapted(used to) the higher levels of neurotransmitters so when we stop the addictive behaviour we get withdrawal symptoms, to get rid of the withdrawal symptoms we continue the addictive activity. This can explain tolerance as people need to to take higher and higher levels of drugs for example, just to get the same effect.

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Biological Model - Biochemical (Evaluation)


  • A lot of the data is determined through correlational studies, therefore it is difficult to conclude cause and effect.
  • Cannot explain why some people can have alcohol, smoke and occasionally gamble but do not become addicted.
  • Ignores other factors, does not give a complete explanation e.g. social, psychological.
  • Reductionist, tries to explain a high level human activity using low level explanations.
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