Drug Tolerance and Conditioning

Post your response to the following: Jim has taken heroin for the past 5 years. One day, Jim and Jack go out and both use large quantities of heroin. Although both did the same amount of drugs, Jack dies from an overdose. Discuss how drug tolerance and conditioning may factor in this outcome. Explain the possible reasons for their addiction.

I think that the death of Jack from a drug overdose was due to the cyclical nature of the withdrawal syndrome coupled with the positive-incentive properties of drugs (Pinel, 2007). Five years ago when Jack started using heroin neural adaption to the drug started the withdrawal syndrome usually associated with physical dependency. As his body got used to the drug it builds up immunity to the drug. If he then stopped taking the drug for a prolonged period of time his bodies neural adaptations would start to manifest as negative effects opposite of those induced by the drug. As his body adapted more and more to the drug he had to use more and more heroin to get the same effects. Furthermore, these types of drugs carry with them a positive-incentive or anticipated pleasure. As Jack’s addiction grew he probably became more sensitive to the anticipated effects of the drug and therefore desired it more and more. Couple that with a little social pressure from Jim and maybe a little conditioned stimulation from Jim’s house, and his rate of consumption probably skyrocketed over time. Put all of these together and they paint a very understandable picture: Jack would suffer from withdrawal symptoms if off the drug for long. He became more sensitive to the anticipated effects over time and therefore craved more and more. Also, his body became more and more tolerant of the drug by the day. He is also feeling some social pressure to continue using because of his friendship with Jim which is built around the drug. Moreover, being over at Jim’s house probably has conditioned his body to expect heroin when at his house. He just became more and more dependent on the drug and it eventually killed him.


Pinel, J. P. J. (2007). Basics of biopsychology. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.


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