Analyze the extent to which addiction to psychoactive drugs is a biological versus a psychological phenomenon.

Analyze the extent to which addiction to psychoactive drugs is a biological versus a psychological phenomenon.

Substance abuse and addiction are difficult conditions to successfully treat. For example, the 12-month relapse rate among alcoholics is more than 60%, and it is nearly 75% for smokers and heroin users (see Figure 5.15 in Brain and Behavior). One possible reason for treatment failure is the powerful way in which addictive substances affect the brain. Most addictive drugs appear to tap into the brain’s reward circuit, so that any behavior (taking a drug) preceding the psychological experience of reward is strongly reinforced. If addiction is a product of brain activity, it is logical that the treatment also must involve some change in brain activity. In fact, there are several forms of biologically-based drug treatments, including the use of agonist drugs that mimic some of the addictive drugs’ effects (e.g. methadone for heroin addiction), as well as other substances that alter activity in the reward system (such as Baclofen).

Despite the potential for treating drug addiction more successfully than programs involving abstinence alone, many individuals believe that the drug addict is responsible for his or her condition and that using another drug to treat addiction is akin to “cheating.” According to this philosophy, those who become addicted to drugs can be considered fully recovered only if they stop taking the drug and never relapse. There is a debate, then, about whether addiction is a biological/medical problem, and therefore largely outside of the person’s control, or an inherent psychological problem which the individual needs to overcome by force of will.

To prepare for this Discussion:

Review in Brain and Behavior the biological bases (including the role of genes) of addiction and treatment of addiction.

Consider whether the evidence seems to indicate if addiction is more of a biological or psychological problem.

Think about the implications of attributing addiction to biological versus psychological causes.

With these thoughts in mind:

Post by Day 4 an analysis of the extent to which addiction to psychoactive drugs is a biological versus a psychological phenomenon. Also support or refute the practice of using drug therapies for treating addiction. Include in your argument references to the advantages and disadvantages of relying on drug therapy to treat addiction.

Resources to use:

Readings

Course Text: Garrett, B. (2015). Brain and Behavior: An Introduction to Biological Psychology, (4th ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.

Chapter 5, ” Drugs, Addiction, and Reward” (pp. 123–157)

Chapter 15, ” Sleep and Consciousness” (pp. 481–517

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