Psychology of Addiction - Research Paper

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1819 Words
Date:  2022-12-19


In the general view, addiction refers to a condition where a person involves himself/herself with the consumption of a substance or in a habit which results in adverse effects. These effects bring about a compelling incentive to carry on with the behavior notwithstanding unfavorable consequences continually. Addiction may entail the use of substances such as drugs which include cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and alcohol, or habits such as gambling and internet usage. There exists scientific evidence which supports the fact that addictive substances and behaviors share a vital neurobiological feature- they strongly activate brain pathways of reward and reinforcement, most of which involve the neurotransmitter dopamine. Both the use of substances or behaviors such as gambling has an enhanced possibility of leading to mental health problems for instance depression or even anxiety or other pre-occurring conditions. Not only does the use of substances or gambling disorders engage most of the similar brain mechanisms of neurology but also have common treatment procedures (Robinson, 2000).

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The medical world has established a way to view substance use disorders according to the class of drugs used. It outlines ten substance use disorders which vary slightly in addition to sharing typical symptoms (Viens, 2007):

  • Alcohol Use disorder- Alcohol is categorized as a depressant and it is a public disorder among adults. Research confirms that alcohol abuse is 12.4 percent in men and 4.9 percent in women; even though it is escalating among the women. Findings show that women are prone to the unfavorable effects of alcohol. Usually, alcohol use disorder establishes itself better before the age of 40.
  • Caffeine intoxication- Excess usage of caffeine is characterized by restlessness, insomnia, psychomotor agitation, and gastrointestinal disturbance.
  • Cannabis Use Disorder- Statistics highlight that this disorder is most common among 18 to 29-year-olds.
  • Hallucinogen Use- Such drugs change the perception in the users. Feelings such as separation of the body and mind are often experienced.
  • Inhalant Use Disorder- Includes glue, paint, or fuels and they induce psychoactive effects. This disorder is common among 1 to 17-year-olds
  • Opioid Use Disorder- Involves the use of substances such as illegal drug heroin and other prescription pain relievers such as morphine, oxycodone, etc. Research by the American Society of Addiction Medicine affirms that in 2015, about 2 million people were involved in abusing prescription pain relievers and 591,000 were involved in the use of heroin.
  • Sedative Use Disorder- Entails addiction to sleeping pills which are brain depressants. Excess use of these drugs is among 18 to 29-year-olds.
  • Stimulant Use Disorder- Under this category, the substances involved is amphetamines, methylphenidate, and cocaine. In the United States, cocaine use is highest among 18 to 25-year-olds.
  • Tobacco Use Disorder- It is the nicotine in tobacco which acts as the stimulant. A study report states that about 68 percent of adult smokers want to quit, and 50 percent of smokers have made attempts to stop.
  • Other Substance Use- Involves the use of substances such as steroids which also affect the central nervous system thus leading to compulsive use which results in serious problems.

Addiction is not entirely limited to substance use but involves behaviors that offer an instant reward. In June 2018, the World Health Organization incorporated Gaming Disorder which entails video and digital gaming to extreme levels (Aarseth, 2017). This is after a consensus of experts around the globe which reflects that only a few people who play video games have control over the activity. Majority of the people spend a lot of time and lack control over it, and it leads to the risk for diagnosis. In the United States, there are excessive behavior patterns which include smartphone use. Internet gambling, pornography, etc. As much as these activities offer people a chance to instant reward, it has not been confirmed that all these meet the entire criteria for addictive behavior.

Since addiction affects the normal brains function, individuals who grow an addiction might not be conscious that their deeds are resulting in complications for themselves as well as others. Also, as time goes by, the quest for achieving the pleasurable effects of the substance or behavior can take over a person's activities. Addiction is not associated with specific individuals since anybody is susceptible to getting addicted to anything at any time. Even though there are untruths/misconceptions regarding addiction, the reality stands that processes that result in addictive habits have no simple explanation. It is of the essence to capture the fact that chances of developing an addiction can be propelled by genetic or biological factors, but then research findings by psychologists affirm that there are some causes for addiction and they include the following (Dodes, 2017):

Social Factors

Involve the people that an individual chooses to hang out with. The company of people that one keeps considerably dictates that person's behavior. A study shows that most of the people who become victims of addiction have been influenced by their peers. Drug use among school teenagers has been an addiction contributed by the friendships they uphold while in school. All this has led to lifelong habits especially in the use of drugs.

Psychological Factors

These comprise of characteristics within the individual, and they include personality factors, trauma and abuse, and mental health factors. Inability to withstand anguish or other strong emotions and sometimes to undergo through depression has been linked to addiction.

Environmental Factors

Under these are family factors, accessibility factors, and employment status and peer groups. Having a strong and supportive family reduces the chances of engaging in substance use because of regular supervision. Sexual, physical and emotional abuse also escalates the risk of addiction. The other vital thing to mention is that the easy availability of substances such as alcohol in one's area of location or school/work raises the chances of addiction.

All in all, there exists no single person who possesses an "addictive personality" which can lucidly foresee if an individual might be drawn into an addiction crisis.

"According to World Health Rankings, the United States ranks 37th for drug use mortality rates, out of 192 countries. The U.S registered a death rate of 1.5 people per 100,000, with 100 people dying from drug overdoses every day. The mortality rate due to substance addiction is however rising day by day. Findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that substance use has become more popular and is currently at an all-time high. Since 1990, they have more than tripled. Drug overdoses resulted in the death of 36,000 people in 2008, with most of the deaths caused by drug addiction. In 2010, about 2 million people reported non-medical prescription drug use for the first time. Yearly death total statistics that make and don't make the news due to substance use in the U.S are as follows" (Aarseth, 2017):

  • Opioid-related deaths: 35,000
  • Alcohol-related deaths: 88,000
  • Tobacco-related deaths: 480,000

Even though all addictions can result in the sense of hopelessness and impressions of failure, as well as disgrace and remorse, research papers confirm that recovery is the way forward instead of an exception and that there are numerous paths to treatment. Usually, individuals can attain better physical, psychological, and social functioning on their own accord, and this is generally termed as natural recovery. Other individuals affected by addiction tend to go for support from the community where counseling is issued or peer-based networks where addicts get to undergo peer counseling and therapy from a specialist or a psychologist. Nonetheless, other addicts choose to partake in the clinical-oriented recovery in which there are therapy and counseling services provided by certified professionals in the field of psychology and therapy. The path taken to reach the point of full recovery is never a walk in the park; the road is full of bumps and holes. Occasionally, there are often relapses experienced and also the recurrence of use of the substance, but then addicts are never expected to give up. Research by scientists points out that for the individuals who attain a cutback in the disorder for about five years have no probability of experiencing a relapse compared to individuals among the general population (Krentzman, 2013).

When it comes to ways in which professionals have specially devised to treat addiction, it is said that the use of a substance (drugs) is possible. Nevertheless, the recovery process takes longer, and it requires multiple efforts to succeed. A critical issue to consider during this recovery is the relapse, as it is considered part and parcel of the process. For the recovery to take place smoothly, then there is a great need to address the prevention and management of repetitive use. Since addiction impacts many aspects of a person's functioning, the treatment has to primarily focus on the various dimensions of the addict's life, such as work life, family life and also mental health. Recovery incorporates numerous components which have to be adopted in sequence (Krentzman, 2016). One key element of a good treatment schedule is the constant observing of individual progress and chances are that the treatment components will gradually alter throughout recovery. Below are some highlighted treatment procedures for addiction:

  • Removal of toxic substances in the body (detoxification) - Medical professionals perform this, and it forms the initial stage of the recovery process.
  • Issuance of medicines to reduce the use of illegal substances or medications given to get rid of pre-addiction symptoms such as depression and anxiety.
  • Counseling is also essential for it assists the individual to understand the reason for seeking treatment and more reason to continue with the procedure instead of giving up along the way.
  • Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) to aid an individual understands and withstands circumstances that prompt the need to use substances.
  • Engagement in group therapy or peer support initiatives which enables addicts to hear stories from other patients with similar problems before. These groups cultivate the desire to quit addiction for good.
  • Family therapy assists persons in mending damages done to family relationships and in coming up with more supportive ones.

It can be noted that drug addiction is a problem that needs immediate intervention. People suffering from addiction need saving, and it can only be done if everyone puts in effort into this matter. The number of deaths is seen to be rising every time a statistical analysis is carried out. However, the most satisfying reality is that there exist numerous ways in which the people affected by addiction can be helped. Addiction is just a neurological disorder, which under proper procedures can be curbed for good. The research paper has revealed quite a lot about the scientific background regarding addiction, and it is sufficient enough to help in overcoming this epidemic.


Aarseth, E., Bean, A. M., Boonen, H., Colder Carras, M., Coulson, M., Das, D., ... & Haagsma, M. C. (2017). Scholars' open debate paper on the World Health Organization ICD-11 Gaming Disorder proposal. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 6(3), 267-270.

Dodes, L. M., & Dodes, J. (2017). The case study method in psychodynamic psychology: Focus on addiction. Clinical Social Work Journal, 45(3), 215-226.

Krentzman, A. R. (2013). Review of the application of positive psychology to substance use, addiction, and recovery research. Psyc...

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