Averting Alcohol and Drug Abuse Through Aversion

There are many facets to learned behavior, with a major aspect being the methodical processes of learning. There are many theories about learning, and many of them have been scientifically proven by using experimental studies. One such study has shaped and paved a path that many have duplicated and modeled experiments and studies from. Today, this study is known as Pavlov’s dog.

A physiologist by the name of Ivan Petrovich Pavlov measured the salvation of dogs that was an automatic reflex that was brought about by the sight of food that was eventually paired with the ringing of a bell of which the dogs learned to associate with the food, therefore the dogs were conditioned to salivate when they heard the bell (Lieberman, 2012). The theories of learning have since evolved, but the basics of association remains intact.

This phenomenon of conditioning is not limited to eliciting behavior but it is also effective in extinguishing it, for such is the case with aversion conditioning, which has shown considerable success in treating alcohol and drug dependencies, which the study that is covered in this paper will summarize. Substance has fast become an epidemic in the United States, which quickly spread to many of the developed and developing nations on this planet.

The devastation is increased by the inability to successfully and consistently treat this ever growing pandemonium. This world’s saving grace from this particular travesty come in the form of behavioral science. There exists many other facets of science that has equally contributed to the knowledge and success of many (if not all) treatment strategies in substance addiction such as; neuroscience, physiology, anthropology, pharmacology, etc…, but the actual application of the most promising possible solutions comes in the form of behavioral therapy.

The use of behavioral therapy in the treatment of substance addiction is somewhat controversial yet it has been proven effective. This particular study makes it evident that aversion therapy yields considerably sufficient results. Aversion therapy is used to reduce negative effects of substance abuse and substance addiction by associating the substance of abuse with negative circumstances such as different medicines that induce nausea (ICAP, 2013).

This study uses conditioned place aversion which the aversion used is evaluated in reference to the negative reward that is associated with it. This procedure provides measures of negative stimuli (which is the controlled stimuli), that is administered to the animals, the animals are then placed into a distinct environment (which is the uncontrolled stimuli), that is then paired with the controlled stimuli… withdrawals and the amount of time spent in the different environments serves as measurements of the negative stimuli (John Hopkins university, 2011).

Liver alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme that speeds up the transfer of hydrogen between compounds) oxidizes ethanol to acetaldehyde, which is further oxidized to acetate by aldehyde dehydrogenase-2 (ALDH2*1). Individuals who carry a low-activity ALDH2 (ALDH2*2) display high blood acetaldehyde levels after ethanol consumption, which leads to dysphoric effects, such as facial flushing, nausea, dizziness, and headache (“Asian alcohol phenotype”), which result in an aversion to alcohol and protection against alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Mimicking this phenotype may reduce alcohol consumption in alcoholics (Cortinez, & Sapag, 2009). Aversion therapy is indeed an intense treatment for substance abuse, but one that has proven to be effective. The sensitivity of SOC (second order conditioning) for detecting ethanol-induced learning may be related to possible age-related differences in backward conditioning. One could also wonder what would have happened if the order of presentation of CS and US had been reversed (Pautassi et al, 2011, abstract).

In the words of Rothwell, Thomas, & Gewirtz (2012) “The adaptations in brain function that underlie this protracted state of dependence may provide a foundation for the escalation of withdrawal severity that develops over repeated opiate exposure, and increase the likelihood of progression from casual drug use to compulsive drug abuse” (abstract). References Cortinez, G. , Sapag, A. , & Israel, Y. (2009). RNA interference against aldehyde dehydrogenase-2: Development of tools for alcohol research. Alcohol, 43(2), 97-104. doi:http://dx. doi. org/10. 1016/j. alcohol. 2008. 12. 007 Lieberman, D. A.

(2012). Psychology of learning. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education. Retrieved from https://content. ashford. edu/books/AUPSY331. 12. 1 Pautassi, R. M. , Myers, M. , Spear, L. P. , Molina, J. C. , & Spear, N. E. (2011). Ethanol induces second-order aversive conditioning in adolescent and adult rats. Alcohol, 45(1), 45-55. doi:http://dx. doi. org/10. 1016/j. alcohol. 2010. 10. 004 Rothwell, P. E. , Thomas, M. J. , & Gewirtz, J. C. (2012). Protracted manifestations of acute dependence after a single morphine exposure. Psychopharmacology, 219(4), 991-8. doi:http://dx. doi. org/10. 1007/s00213-011-2425-y.

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