Theories of Addiction Explanations for Continuing Drug Use and Relapse

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Theories of addiction, many have been proposed and a variety of preclinical models have been

constructed. several theories were utilized in this study to better understand the basis of addiction. The

first theory, negative reinforcement, suggests that the continued use of the psychoactive substance is to

avoid withdrawal dysphoria. The next theory subject to research during this study was positive

reinforcement. The positive reinforcement theory of addiction suggests the subject continues use of the

psychoactive substance simply because they enjoy it. These theories, positive reinforcement the more

familiar of the preclinical models of addiction, stem from the associative learning theory. Either of

these preclinical models are a perfect example of operant conditioning. Both subjects have associated

their use of the psychoactive substance with consequences, reinforcing the behavior. Operant

conditioning is the easiest form of associative learning and the hardest to correct once behavior is

learned in this manner. There have been several studies done to understand operant conditioning. The

most prominent was the operant chamber, a Skinner box. It was built in the mid sixties by B. F. Skinner

and brought modern behaviorism to the forefront of psychology. Though a very controversial study

much was learned in behavior control and was called the law of effect, stating that rewarding behavior

is likely to recur.

Another crucial model in understanding addiction is stimulus response learning. This model

suggests, unlike that of associative learning where the response follows the stimulus, the stimulus itself

creates a habitual response. This this occurs through classical conditioning and is a conditioned

response. This conditioned response is developed through conditioned reinforcement. When the subject

comes in to contact with paraphernalia, like the light in the skinner box, they know they are going to

receive their primary reinforcer. This can easier be illustrated with Pavlov's studies on classical

conditioning. Pavlov began to notice that dogs salivating whenever he would present the with a bowl of

food. This is an example of an unconditioned stimulus eliciting an unconditioned response. When you

introduce a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus. In this case the paraphernalia, you receive

the unconditioned response. Eventually, if this is repeated over time the once neutral stimulus elicits

the same response as the unconditioned stimulus. The once unconditioned response is now a

conditioned response and can be controlled with exposure to the conditioned stimulus. When the

subject is exposed to the paraphernalia the body begins adjusting for the use of the psychoactive

substance and causes the cravings associated with addiction.

The next model researched in the study was incentive salience. This is a motivational attribute

given by the brain to reward predicting stimuli, causing the craving for the psychoactive substance. For

example, if the subjects addictive behavior is extinguished and is then exposed to an illustration once

associated with the stimulus, the craving can return. Cravings can also return through spontaneous

recovery. This is when the subjects addictive behavior is extinguish and, without stimuli exposure, the

subjects craving for the substance returns briefly. This is believed to be cause of relapse in some

subjects battling this disorder.

The final model to be discussed is the inhibitory control dysfunction model. Inhibitory control

consists of neural impulses that act to dampen or stop a specific activity. The area of the brain that this

function occurs is in\the pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain is in control of personality, decision

making, and other functions. If damage or a dysfunction is present in this area of the brain it could...
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