Contextual Conditioning of Drug Tolerance and Drug Addiction

Topics: Drug addiction, Addiction, Classical conditioning Pages: 6 (1917 words) Published: October 11, 2010
Contextual Conditioning of Drug Tolerance and Drug Addiction Research on the contextual conditioning of drug tolerance shows it is an important factor in understanding drug addiction in humans. Context is a way of noting that the likelihood of a behavior or response depends on certain conditions. Contextual conditioning is said to occur when a person becomes conditioned not only to the drug but also to the environmental circumstances or cues in which the drug is taken. Studies have shown that tolerance develops when these cues come to reliably predict physiological or behavioral responses in the presence of those stimuli—the smell, people, administration and sight of the drug (Domjan, 2005). What Current Research States

Researchers agree that the solution to addiction lies in understanding how to prevent withdrawal and relapse in drug addicts. Several studies on drug conditioning have concluded that environmental contexts can trigger relapse in recovering addicts (Chaudri, Sahuque, & Janak, 2008). In a study conducted on smokers, Hogarth (2007) found that drug expectancy is an important factor to consider in treatment for addiction. Meyers and Carlezon (2010) assert that the key to preventing relapse and withdrawal is to extinguish the connection between the environmental cues and the drug. Interventions involving cue exposure therapy are used to train patients in clinical settings. They train them not to respond when exposed to the drug; they are exposed to the drug but not allowed to use it (Otto, O’Cleirigh, & Pollack, 2007). Pavlovian Conditioning of Drug Tolerance

Tolerance is a result of the counteractive effects of a conditioned response to the context of the setting or situation. Pavlovian conditioning plays a role in the development of drug tolerance. In Pavlovian conditioning environmental stimuli are repeated paired with withdrawal symptoms and results in these cues producing conditioned withdrawal (Domjan, 2005). The person has learned that these environmental stimuli predict this outcome—the effect or pleasure of the drug. Siegel (2008) further claims that drug-compensatory responses are also an important factor in the development of tolerance. In the tolerance development stage, a person develops tolerance during repeated administrations of the drug under the same stimulus conditions—the context. They not only develop tolerance to the drug but they also develop conditioned responses to their surroundings and the administration of the drug (Siegel, 2005). In an experiment to determine situational specificity, Siegel (2005) states that tolerance is greater in the original context of the drug. This suggests that what happens to the person when they develop tolerance is that more of the drug is needed to gain the same initial effect. If this does not happen, withdrawal symptoms set in and results in craving and drug-seeking behavior. These responses are said to become conditioned to environmental stimuli in which the drug was initially taken. Instrumental Conditioning and Drug-Seeking Behavior

Instrumental behavior of drug tolerance in its initial phases involves the person taking the drug to receive some reward or reinforcement. One theory of the positive reinforcement claim is that there is an appetitive reinforcement contingency which causes the person to seek after the drug (Hogarth, Dickinson, & Duka, 2010). However, other research claims there is a negative component involved in which the person continues to seek out the drug to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms when the drug effect is no longer present (Hogarth, et. al., 2010). In a study by Hogarth, Dickinson, Hutton, Elbers, & Duka (2006), participants were tested to see if the expectancy of the drug or stimulant would motivate behavior. According to the results, if the participant expected the drug then he/she would indulge in seeking out the drug or experience the physiological effects of the drug in the presence of contextual...

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