1. Outline and evaluate one or more models of addiction. (25 marks)
Paragraph 1 Introduction Introduce the fact that biological explanations of addiction focus on neurotransmitters in the brain, and on genetic differences. Why might they explain some addictions better than others? Describe research evidence on the neurotransmitter dopamine (Potenza, 2001, see A2 Level Psychology page 611) and explain how the biological explanation overlaps with the behavioural explanation in terms of reinforcement, and the reward pathways (Olds & Milner, 1954, see A2 Level Psychology page 616). Then consider the research evidence against.
Paragraph 2 Give evidence for genetics including family studies and twin studies (Jang et al., 2000, see A2 Level Psychology page 611). Genetics analysis looks for common genes in people with addictive behaviour compared to control groups without such behaviour. Consider the evidence against as this supports environmental rather than genetic factors (Han et al., 1999, see A2 Level Psychology page 611).
Paragraph 3 Evaluate the biological model including issues such as: separating out the effects of addiction; the reductionism of the model because it ignores social factors; the lack of reliability in genetics analysis findings using Comings’ (1998, see A2 Level Psychology page 613) research as evidence. Consider why the model can be seen as deterministic.
Paragraph 4 Introduce the behavioural (i.e. learning) explanations, including classical and operant conditioning, and explain that they take the opposite approach to the biological in terms of nature/nurture because, whilst the biological focuses on internal, physical causes of addiction, the behavioural model focuses on external, environmental causes.
Paragraph 5 Explain how the processes of operant conditioning and reinforcement and learned classical conditioning associations can explain addiction.
Paragraph 6 Evaluate the behavioural model including the positive applications. Discuss the fact that classical conditioning doesn’t account well for maintenance, whereas operant doesn’t explain acquisition or relapse very well but does explain maintenance. Then consider the fact that gamblers lose more than they win and that there are individual differences in what is rewarding, meaning it is difficult to apply the principles of operant conditioning to all forms of addiction. Thus, behavioural explanations have varying explanatory power for different forms of addiction. Then consider that the fact that behavioural explanations ignore cognition is a key weakness. Finally, use the diathesis–stress model to evaluate the fact that we need to consider the interaction of nature and nurture to more fully understand addiction.
2. Critically consider the factors that influence addictive behaviour (for example, attributions, self-esteem, the social context and the effect of the media). (25 marks)
Paragraph 1 Introduction Introduce internal factors, such as personal characteristics (self-esteem and cognitive attributions), that make people vulnerable to addiction. Describe how attributions may be based on the labelling of the individual as an addict and the self-fulfilling prophecy that can result (Preyde & Adams, 2008, see A2 Level Psychology page 618). Outline Davies’ (1996, see A2 Level Psychology page 619) theory that attributions help the individual addict to protect themselves from acknowledging their own behaviour.
Paragraph 2 Use Davies’ own (1996) study as evidence and Nelson’s (2004, see A2 Level Psychology page 620) research as further evidence. Then evaluate the research on attributions such as: Davies’ research has reliability; the issues to do with the sequence of his model so there is a need for further research. Consider the problem of the sample size of Davies’ research and the fact that it is not clear whether attributions predict or reflect behaviour.
Paragraph 3 Introduce low self-esteem is a predictor of addiction and use Jessor (1987, see A2 Level Psychology page 621) as evidence. However, there is a lack of evidence for self-esteem, even though it has high face validity, and there is research evidence against, such as Van Hasselt et al. (1993, see A2 Level Psychology page 621) and Newcombe, Maddahian, and Bentler (1986, see A2 Level Psychology page 621). Conclude how this shows the multi-factorial nature of addiction.
Paragraph 4 Introduce the external factors involved in addiction, such as the social context, availability of the source of the addiction, and the effects of the media. Then introduce the fact that attitudes to addiction vary greatly over time and use changes in attitudes to either opiates, gin, or smoking (do not attempt all three!) to illustrate this. Also explain how the social context can influence drug taking, such as the effects of Ecstasy can vary depending on the presence or absence of dance music (Larkin & Griffiths, 2004). Also discuss how contextual factors are deliberately manipulated by the designers of slot machines. Consider some of the key factors identified by Griffiths (1999a; Parke & Griffiths, 2007, see A2 Level Psychology page 626). Assess the potential for treatment to use the structural features to better inform the addict.
Paragraph 5 Introduce the fact that the media can promote or reduce addictive behaviour depending on how the addiction is portrayed. Provide empirical support from Dalton et al. (2003, see A2 Level Psychology page 624) and Distefan et al. (1999, see A2 Level Psychology page 625).
Paragraph 6 Discuss the difficulty of trying to test the effect of the media on addiction as research is mainly either correlational or natural experiment. What are the weaknesses of this and why does this mean that conclusions are inconclusive? Thus, consider the need for further research to better understand the direct, indirect, and interactive effects of media portrayals of addictive behaviour. Conclude that the many different factors show just how multi-factorial addiction is. Discuss the relative benefits of an idiographic versus nomothetic approach and the suggestion that all addictions may share common aetiology.
3(a). Outline two types of intervention. (9 marks)
Paragraph 1 Describe the main medical intervention drugs including aversive agents such as disulfiram (Antabuse), and the agonist or substitute drugs such as synthetic opiates (methadone). Also describe the narcotic antagonist (naltrexone) treatment.
Paragraph 2 Introduce the most popular self-help therapy, the 12-Step Programme of Alcoholics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, etc. Explain the key features of the therapy, including the fact that it uses ex-addicts as helpers, that it requires the addict to have reached “rock bottom”, etc.
3(b). Discuss the effectiveness of the types of intervention described in (a). (16 marks)
Paragraph 1 Evaluate the biological intervention including the fact that it can be criticised as treating symptoms not causes, but, on the other hand, substitution therapies are effective. However, compliance is an issue as not all addicts continue with the programme. Moreover, biological interventions are rarely used in isolation and so it is difficult to establish the effectiveness of the technique from the other techniques used.
Paragraph 2 Evaluate the 12-Step approach as lacking empirical support and explain why it is difficult to gain research evidence. Also consider the issue of sample bias and the issue of the criterion for success. A positive point is that the technique is economical; however, a problem is that spirituality works for some but repels others.
Paragraph 3 Discuss general issues to do with therapy including: availability of treatment; the fact that a multi-approach is optimal; and that the integrated approach must be idiographic, i.e. matched to the addict’s individual needs. Consider the issue of how long the addict perseveres with the therapy and that recovery can be a long process as it often involves a number of attempts at therapy. Discuss Orford’s (2001) challenge to the techniques that addictions disappear naturally in time and the counter-criticisms to this. Discuss the lack of systematic research evidence for the effectiveness of the different treatments and that it is difficult to draw comparisons about the different treatments as they are often used simultaneously and so we cannot be sure which is having more effect.