Critically discuss the theoretical explanations put forward to explain alcohol dependence and discuss the rationale for prevention programmes for hazardous drinkers.

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Critically discuss the theoretical explanations put forward to explain alcohol dependence and discuss the rationale for prevention programmes for hazardous drinkers.

This assignment aims to evaluate current theoretical explanations that are relevant to the field of addiction and to explore the reasons and intentions behind various prevention programmes for hazardous drinkers. There are many different types of theoretical explanations and models relating to addiction, and most research has focussed on alcohol dependency. (Ogden, 2004)

However it is important to define what is meant by the term “addiction”; Goodman (2005) puts forward the following as a definition for addiction:

 A process whereby a behaviour, that can function both to produce pleasure and to provide escape from internal discomfort, is employed in a pattern characterized by recurrent failure to control the behaviour and continuation of the behaviour despite significant negative consequences.

(Goodman, 2005, online)

Although the term “addiction” is still widely used current theorists and scholars are tending to use the term “dependence” in modern research and studies.

People can become dependant not only on external substances that are ingested but also to risky behaviours such as gambling, extreme sports etc.

In this respect anything that induces a pleasurable physiological change has the potential to lead to dependence or addiction.

Brain cells have a central core covered by a sheath, at one end of the cell are roots at the other end “fronds”. A charge is passed through the fronds to the fronds of another brain cell and neurotransmitters are released, these neurotransmitters are responsible for feelings of euphoria and heightened pleasure. Some substances mimic neurotransmitters or may cause receptors to cut out; the use of some substances (such as alcohol or opiates) may cause the brain to stop producing neurotransmitters leading to dependence.

(WHO, 2004).

Orford and Heather (2003) have identified the puzzling aspect of addiction, the fact that although the addict wants to give up the addiction they often find themselves returning to the substance or action that they are dependant on. “The core phenomenon of addiction and it’s most puzzling aspect is the fact that the addict returns repeatedly to a form of behaviour that he or she has vowed to give up” (Orford and Heather, 2003, online)

There are three main approaches that can be used to explain theories of addiction; these are the psychological approach, the biological approach and the environmental approach.

The psychological approach looks at addiction from a psychodynamic point of view, there are a variety of treatments i.e. cognitive therapy, psychoanalysis etc. (Ogden, 2004).  Freud suggested that all individuals go through stages of psychosocial development and this development is connected to different erogenous zones. These zones represent different areas of the body and if these stages of development are not satisfied an individual may become fixated with this zone i.e. if a child is weaned too soon the individual may have an oral fixation and be more susceptible to developing an addiction such as smoking. (Ogden 2004)

Freud argued that an addiction may be the result of either latent homosexuality or a need for oral gratification. This perspective emphasis a psychological abnormality and predates the onset of addictive behaviour. (Ogden, 2004, p.107)

Under the umbrella term of psychological approaches comes “social learning theory”. This is an explanation of behaviour that puts forward the theory that individuals generally learn by association and mimicking the behaviour patterns of others, particularly role models. (Stuart-Hamilton, 1999).

Albert Bandurra illustrated this explanation by carrying out experiments with children and “Bobo dolls”. This experiment showed two films of a female authority figure playing with toys, including an inflatable Bobo doll. One film illustrated the person playing sensibly and the same person was filmed playing aggressively towards the Bobo doll. The children were divided into two similar groups, one group was shown the positive film and the other was shown the negative film.

The children who had seen the positive behaviour mimicked this positive behaviour towards the Bobo doll and the children who had seen the aggressive behaviour carried out similar behaviour patterns to the one that they had observed. (Stuart-Hamilton, 1999)

The outcome of these experiments strengthened Bandurra’s theory that behaviour is learned through observation of others, especially role models. Early in life role models tend to be the child’s parents or primary carers. However, later on in the child’s development more importance is placed by young people onto peer group acceptance and being part of a group. (Guptal and Deverensky, 1997).

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Guptal and Deverensky, however found that young people and adults often maintain familial behaviour patterns that they were exposed to as young children. Four hundred and seventy seven children between the ages of nine and fourteen took part in a questionnaire that aimed to analyse their gambling habits and their attitude to gambling behaviour. Those that gambled at an early age with members of their family were more likely to take up gambling with their friends or as an isolated activity during adolescence.

Also adolescents who came from a family that regularly gambled saw this as socially acceptable ...

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