Behaviorism and Drug Addiction
Behavioral or learning theory is of the opinion that drug addiction is behavioral disarray in which drugs function as the excellent reinforcing elements. Drug addiction becomes a disorder when the need for drug reinforcement assumes a significant portion of a person’s behavior. Drug addiction is a form of excessive behavior. Addiction is excessive behavior that occurs when associated activities are appropriate and expected. Behavioral theory puts drug addiction in the same category as gambling and overeating; excessive behaviors attributed to addiction.
The characteristic of drug addiction in the behavioral framework is that the addict experiences escalated progression in the need to use the drugs on exposure to a stimulus. The stimuli include factors such as stress, euphoria, food or particular sites. Behaviors that result in the availability of the stimuli eventually dominate the behavioral repertoire of the individual. The stimuli become the most powerful causes of craving than all others available in an addict’s environment. This could be due to genetic predispositions. Further, it could be due to learning histories coupled with easy access to the reinforcement agents. A person develops drug addiction because of lack of enough contact with alternative sources of reinforcements.
Behavioral approach to drug addiction does not mean the same as repeated drug use. One example of repetitive use of drug that does not lead to addiction is heroin use by combat soldiers. Soldiers in combat use heroin during combat in Vietnam Wars. They do not continue using the drug once they are back home. This is because of lack of reinforcement agents in Vietnam; fear, apprehension and euphoria of war. Simple exposure to drugs even in the presence of sound reinforcement agents does not lead to drug addiction.
Edberg, M. C. (2007). Essentials of Health Behavior: Social and Behavioral Theory in Public Health. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
Rao , R., & Wolfgang , S. (2008). Drug Addiction: From Basic Research to Therapy. New York: Springer.