Perspectives of Substance Abuse

With which viewpoint or viewpoints do you agree most? Why? Provide specific examples of causal factors and treatments outlined by the respective theoretical viewpoints.

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I have always been a fan of the behaviorist perspective on psychological disorders, and substance-related disorders are no different. I do agree with Nevid and Rathus (2005) when they say that operant conditioning might be at work in the development of substance abuse. I think though that the situation might be more complex than the authors let on to. With most substance abuse negative consequences play a role as well as the positive reinforcement of a temporary reduction of tension. Of course, more research would be necessary, but I believe that the negative consequences of substance abuse (i.e. hangovers) act as a moderator of substance abuse. However, when a person becomes stressed the positive benefits of substance abuse outweigh the negative consequences. It is in this context that I believe antagonist drugs can have the biggest impact. Antagonist drugs turn the positive reinforcement of a temporary reduction of tension into a negative reinforcer. If antagonist drug therapy were carried out of over an extended period of time a person would begin to associate the sickness with the substance. Through classical conditioning, a person might even begin to feel sick at the sight or smell of the abused substance in question. At the end of such a treatment, a person would have to fight the negative reinforcement developed through the antagonist drugs in order to commence the substance abuse.

The behaviorist approach to the treatment of substance-related disorders appealed to me the most because it involved tangible action, rather than simply talking about the problem. All of the other treatments are predicated on the belief that a person wants to and can discontinue the substance abuse. Even though someone might want to discontinue the abuse, I think that most people can’t without intervention. This approach offers treatment for those that want to quit but can’t. This approach changes the way that people think about the substance, rather than trying to simply alter substance-related behavior.

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Nevid, J.S., & Rathus, S.A. (2005). Psychology and the challenges of life: Adjustment in the new millennium (9th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

One thought on “Perspectives of Substance Abuse

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  1. Hi there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


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