Binge drinking is defined as heavy consumption of alcohol over a short space of time. For men, it is the consumption of more than six units of alcohol and for women is consuming more than five units of alcohol. My clients name is Dave was a good student who kept away from bad peer until his 9th grade where he joined group that introduced him to drinking. Now at 12th grade, he drinks thrice a week. This has affected his academics; he no longer finishes his assignments nor gets good grades. Constantly he is arrested for violence, minor crimes like stealing money for alcohol or sexual harassment. He has quit the school volleyball team where he was the best.
Pavlovian or classical conditioning is an involuntary or automatic response to a specific stimulus. It is also the predictable sequence of events in which a rational being respond to the first event anticipating for the next (Leonard, 2002). Dave did not become a binge drinker overnight, it started through social outing on weekends and college parties with friends. Unconditioned stimulus in this case was the alcohol. The unconditioned response is the binge drinking. Conditioned stimulus is the college parties and finally conditioned response is the response to alcohol.
The drinking started when his friends introduced Dave to college parties (CS). This resulted into him starting to take little amount of alcohol (US) and then little by little he founded himself as a binge drinker (UR). The conditional response to alcohol and the continued consumption has affected him in many negative ways, which endanger his academic and social lives. Lack of finances to buy alcohol for him and friends has resulted into stealing of his parent money. He is constantly involved in fights and bullying others when drank and he has twice been arrested for that and sexual harassing his female colleagues.
The introduction of Dave into drinking by friends marks the beginning of his drinking problem. Like the Pavlov dog, a college party meant that there would be alcohol. Dave became responsive by the sound of a party because to him it meant drinking (Leonard, 2002). With time, the response changed from the a few units to many and eventually from weekends to even weekdays. That is when his problem matured.
Operant or instrumental conditioning is a form of learning in which the consequences, rewards and punishment, lead to behavior change. According to Thorndike, learning does not involve the mind but on built on a connection between the situation (S) and a response (R) depending on the reward or punishment. In his conclusion, he says that rewards strengthen the previous response whereas punishment weakens it.
Dave was introduced into college parties, the situation (S) by friends and eventually become a binge drinker, response (R). The connection between the parties and alcohol are what attracted Dave to alcohol consumption (Leonard, 2002). Like the animals used in the operant experiment, where there were not using their mind to reason and pull out of the situation, Dave is ion a similar fix where he does not use his mind to see the implication of drinking in the future. He reacts to the situation through the rewards offered.
His friends at first introduced him to parties and little drinks. Later on, they increased the ratio and eventually he becomes a binge drinker. Friends for attending the parties rewarded Dave with alcohol, he therefore responded positively to the invitation. If there were no such rewards, or maybe he was punished for drinking, he would have refrained from alcoholism and the impacts it has in his life, which in this case would be a negative response.
Social learning theory is also called observational learning theory. It says that people learn through observing others behavior, attitudes and outcomes of those behaviors. Since most of human behavior is learnt through modeling, that is observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are formed and these later on forms a guide on how to take actions. Social learning explains behavior in terms of continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral and environmental influences.
Cognitive behavioral influences are the belief that human behavior is self-regulated. We evaluate our own behavior and get satisfaction in doing well, intrinsic reinforcement. Dave in the case of binge drinking influences his own behavior (Leonard, 2002). At first, he saw it admirable and prestigious to be drunk and going out with friends to have fun in the college parties. Only he did not know the later repercussion of addiction and academic failure.
Behavioral influences are the observable behaviors learnt from friends. Is admiration of their living style and the fun he saw in being drunk and going for parties attracted him into drinking and doing other activities and behaviors his friends involved in.
Environmental influences are in this case the behaviors that he learnt in the group. This are behaviors like excessive drinking, harassing girls, not completing his assignments among others. In addition, stealing and violence is attributed to such influences.
Behavioral self-control training approach is the best solution for treating Dave. It focuses on the abuser and he is the initiator of the process with the help of the therapist. The following initiatives are applied
- Dave should establish a maximum number of drinks per day and peak alcohol level per session.
- He should monitor the number of drinks and the drinking setting.
- He should modify his consumption rate. For example taking a less concentrated alcohol brand.
- He should learn to say no to drinking parties and drinks offered.
- He should avoid the social, emotional and environmental influences that prompt drinking.
The observation of these advices will help Dave in overcoming his drinking problem and become a better person.
Leonard, D.C. (2002). Learning theories, A to Z. Westport, Conn: Oryx Press.