Psychologists have discovered that a wide range of biological, environmental and social factors play role in substance use and abuse. Moolchan et al reviewed research which looked at tobacco smoking in teenagers. Moolchan did not collect raw data but compiled pre existing data and found that social settings played an important factor in determining whether someone would use a substance, in this case smoking.
Moolchans study found strong links between teenagers smoking and at least one of their parents smoking with at 75% of teenage smokers having at least one parent that smoked, he also found that teenagers who smoked reported more symptons of depression that those that did not. Consequently Moolchan found that there is no single factor responsible for substance use and abuse, rather the causes are wide ranging. Griffiths discovered that there are a number of similar components which make up addictive behaviours such as substance abuse.
Griffiths discovered identified six components: Salience is the first component this si the stage where the behaviour, such as drug taking is very important to the user with them thinking about taking drugs even when they are not. The second part is Euphoria which is described as the rush or buzz that is a result of the addictive behaviour. Tolerance is the third component and is described as the period in which increasing quantities are needed in order gain the same rush or buzz experienced in euphoria. Withdrawl symptons follow and are the undesirable experiences when a person stops drug taking for example.
This is likely to include moodiness and irritability. The penultimate stage is conflict and is identified as the stage in which people are in conflict with themselves or others and finally, the last stage is relapse; this is identified as the ever-present risk of falling back into old habits and beginning to take drugs once again for example. Consequently Griffiths found that these components were the same for a wide range of addictive behaviours and discovered that most people will experience these symptoms with varying degrees of severity.
Psychologists have also discovered that reinforcement is beneficial in helping someone to quit abusing a substance. Mestel and Concar’s study, conducted on cocaine addicts, aimed to explore the effectiveness of giving a incentive for qutting. Participants were urine tested several times a week and if they tested negative for substance abuse they were awarded with a voucher for each negative urine test the vouchers value increased in worth however, if a participant had a test which proved positive for substance abuse the voucher value returned to its starting worth.
Particpants would therefore, gain the most money if they remained drug free and the campaign was shown to be largely effective. Whilst drug treatment programmes have a 70% drop out rate 85% of participants in Mestel’s study followed the programme through for twelve weeks. The study shows that reinforcement is effective in treating those who abuse substances such as cocaine.
It has also been suggested by psychologists that in the run up to giving up the use of a substance there is a five stage process defined as the spiral model of behavioural change. This five step process begins with pre-contemplation at this stage the person is not aware of a problem they may have though those surrounding them may well be. The second stage is contemplation in which a person acknowledges that their substance use or abuse is a problem and whilst they may contemplate taking action they in no way commit themselves into taking action.
Following on from contemplation is preperation in which a person prepares for the action they are about to take and may for example have reduced their cigarette intake. Action is the most obvious stage, a person is said to be in the action stage if they have stopped their behaviour between one and six months. The final stage is known as maintainence and here a person works to try to avoid succombng to a relapse remaining substance free.