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PY607 PSYCHOLOGY IN QUESTION SUBSTANCE DEPENDENCE: PERSPECTIVES, APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS STUDENT NUMBER: 0201112 TUTOR: Dr. Julian Lloyd DATE: 7th JUNE 2005 SUBSTANCE DEPENDENCE: PERSPECTIVES, APPLICATIONS AND IMPLICATIONS Dependence or addiction can be defined as a degree of involvement in a behaviour that produces pleasure, but where the costs appear to outweigh the benefits. With regards to substance dependence, only psychoactive drugs that affect the brain pleasure pathway will lead to substance abuse or dependence. Such chemicals include alcohol, nicotine, narcotics, stimulants, and depressants. Despite the large body of literature on substance dependence, or drug addiction, there is no one theory of addiction. Understanding the nature of addiction is of great importance to improve efforts towards treatment and prevention. According to Home Office research (Godfrey, Eaton, McDougall & Culyer, 2002) the economic and social costs of problem drug-users, in England and Wales alone, are estimated at around �17 billion. In addition to the financial costs, consideration should be given to the emotional trauma of drug-related crime victims, the hardship and trauma suffered by families of problem drug-users, not to mention the health costs and deaths of users themselves. Not included in these figures are the legal drugs of nicotine and alcohol, which cause more deaths and social costs than illicit drugs. ...read more.


Users of the drug see their peers sharing needles and see no immediate negative effect. Therefore, they copy and conform to that behaviour to fit into their social group. Alcohol use in the Western world fulfils a social function in that people meet and relax in pubs and clubs. Similarly, heroin users meet and share the experience, often using their own language and social codes. Taking the drug ecstasy is the central activity at all-night 'rave' parties. It may be that within this subculture, the addict finds a socially validated role and that this is the motivation for continued substance use. Social learning theory emphasises the importance of self-efficacy and self-regulation processes. Self-efficacy can be described as the system that enables the individual to exercise a measure of control over their thoughts, feelings, motivations and actions. This theory also sees personality and behaviour as changeable, and therefore if one can change the way the individual thinks, or change the environment they are responding to, their behaviour will change (McMurran, 1994). Applications derived from social learning theory include teaching individuals to recognise the risk factors that lead to substance use, improving alternative coping skills, and enhancing the individual's self-efficacy beliefs so that these alternative skills may be used effectively. Cognitive behavioural therapies are among the most popular treatments of substance dependence (Morgenstern, Blanchard, Morgan, Labouvie & Hayaki, 2001). ...read more.


For instance, if a certain gene is found in a substance abuser and not in the general population, it is unclear as to whether the genetic information caused the substance abuse or the substance abuse itself caused a change in genetic information. There is a whole range of factors that influence behaviour and many factors must be taken into account when attempting to explain and understand substance dependence. Addictive behaviour varies between people and within a person across time. To complicate matters further, addiction can also be applied to non-substance related experiences such as gambling or exercise. No one can become dependent upon a substance without first using it, but not everyone who uses drugs becomes dependent on them. Additionally, not all substance-dependent individuals stay that way. The different perspectives of psychological research offer varied explanations that can be applied to different aspects of the phenomenon of substance dependence. However, there is no one theory of addiction. In conclusion, it is clear that biological factors have a part to play by identifying predisposition to addiction and the varying ways the body reacts to and metabolises substances. However, addictive behaviour occurs within a cultural and social context and individuals are able to learn, make decisions and process information. Therefore, these factors interact with each other to determine the nature and degree of addictive behaviour within an individual. To fully understand substance dependence a more integrated approach is required, which considers the many different processes at work. ...read more.

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