Conceptualizing Addiction Paper Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 23 September 2016

Conceptualizing Addiction Paper

The history of addiction goes back centuries, and unfortunately, there is still a long way to go for people to realize the effects of chemical substances do more harm than good. The difference between drug use and abuse relies heavily on a person’s dependence on the substance. The line between the differences is often very fine. Depending on other factors involved, such as morals, values, environment, and genetic predisposition, the line will most likely be crossed without regard to the consequences until treatment and recovery are the only options left. This is essay compares two theoretical explanations for addiction, including a psychological theory, and a biological theory. In addition, the writer will describe the viewpoints of each model, and how their effectiveness in addiction prevention and intervention.

The Psychological Model

The psychological model includes cognitive behavioral theories, psychodynamic theories, and the learning theory. Cognitive-behavioral theories associate a person’s motivation for taking drugs with their need for variety (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). People often look for fulfillment and pleasure as they carry out their day-to-day responsibilities, thus finding chemical substances a way to escape reality or a reward. Psychodynamic theories suggest more complex explanations are the reason behind drug addiction. Childhood experiences and structure within the family determine a person’s ability to cope socially and emotionally. Thus, the person uses drugs to forget about the pain or provide a false sense of security.

Finally, the learning theory of addiction implies that people learn over time and exposure to drugs that anxiety, tension, and stress all decrease with use, becoming a reinforcer for the user (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Each of theories explain addiction in terms of a malfunctioning thought process or learning process that can be reversed. For less severe cases of addiction, this type of treatment is effective. However, usually, a multi-treatment approach is necessary. Psychological models focus on the emotion and the mind, while biological models, as discussed next, find that addictive behaviors depend on the structure and chemistry in the body’s genetic makeup.

The Biological Model

“The statistical associations between genetic factors and alcohol abuse are very strong” (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). However, there is still much debate over the validity of genetics as a definite cause for addiction. Perhaps, the reason for this is because the number of children of alcoholics that go on to become alcoholics is still small. Additionally, genetic predisposition cannot explain the number of cases of alcoholics that did not come from alcoholic parents or families. In fact, addiction can be so prominent, that it remains even after the drug use has ended (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). Therefore, the biological theory should not be ruled as it is based on what takes place in the body. There is no other theory that can explain how a person could still have addiction symptoms when the substance is absent from their system. Predisposition implies that there is a mutation or malfunction in the body that appears to cause a craving or susceptibility to becoming addicted to a substance.

Comparing Psychological and Biological Models

Both of the psychological and biological models explain addiction. In addition, both models take a holistic approach in their arguments. They simply emphasize a certain portion of the body and based their studies around that. Interestingly, the theories related to the psychological model are all insightful to how humans think and interact, however, they do not explain well the interactions that take place once a substance takes over quite like the biological model. Finally, the main shortcoming of the psychological model of addiction is the treatment approaches, which attempt to retrain a person’s thinking. Since biologists have proved there are specific genetic components of addiction that are naturally either present or absent, causing a mutation, a simple change of thought will not be enough to cure addiction in most cases.

Treatment for Addiction Prevention and Intervention

Out of the two models, the biological model has impressive supporting evidence regarding treatment for addiction. Perhaps, this is because of the perspective of how addiction affects people. It is easier to find a solution to a problem that is explained with support, rather than common thought patterns shared between people. Addiction may have specific characteristics that users share, but ultimately, it will affect everyone differently and many factors will be involved. Problems associated with drug abuse affect areas such as the digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems, which is another advantage of biological treatment. Biologists study these systems and there functions and how addiction affects them. Thus, allowing them to incorporate treatment techniques that specialize in minimizing the effects of addiction while restoring the body’s systems. The duration, extent, and resiliency of the person still plays a vital role in the recovery and treatment process.


The history of addiction continues to stir controversy as to how it starts, who it affects, and why. While many choose to use chemical substances to get variety out of life, there are several that become addicted who cannot even give an answer as to why they continue to use. This is a sign of chemical dependency and typically means that the body and mind have now been altered in such a way that there will be adverse effects if and when a person chooses to stop using. Often, the decision to stop using is not voluntary. For many, there is not a realization that there is even a problem. There are just as many models that explain addiction as there are reasons that people become addicted.

This essay explored the psychological and biological models of addiction. The psychological model deals with the mind and emotions, suggesting that people learn and adapt to certain behaviors over time. The biological model explains addiction as being present in all of us prior to being born, depending on the genetic predisposition and mutations. Arguably, no theory is better than another at explaining addiction. However, there is substantial evidence that supports the biological model and its treatment when dealing with people with addictions.

McNeece, C.A., & DiNitto, D.M. (2012). Chemical Dependency: A systems approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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