Behavioral Theory of Addiction Contrasted With Moral and Disease Theories
Theory and Practice in Addiction Counseling
The behavioral model of addiction emphasizes conditioning as the primary reason for substance abuse. The individual chooses whether or not to engage in substance-using behavior depending on what they get out of the experience, relative to other options they have. If the substances are more rewarding than other activities within the person’s environment, then the behavior will continue. If this situation reverses, then extinction of the behavior is expected due to lack of reinforcement. Although social and economic context are recognized as factors in substance use, they are not primary causes of the behavior, nor is the presence of a comorbid psychological or medical condition.
Interventions are based on the idea that an addicted person wants or expects certain results from substance use, and also wants certain outcomes in other areas of life. These objectives, wants, or needs are referred to as rewards, or reinforcers, in behavioral conditioning.
The individual sets the economy of reward by weighing the relative value-cost of engaging in substance using behaviors. Immediacy of consequences, whether positive or negative reinforcement, or actual punishment, is a factor in this internal economy. If punishment for the behavior becomes stronger than the perceived benefits of continuing it, then there is economy of reward to motivate change, or discontinuation, of the drug-using behavior. Conflict results when there are long term positive reinforcements that do not happen in a short enough time to compete effectively with immediate negative reinforcements, such as inability to work due to withdrawal symptoms, or loss of peer support due to avoiding drug use.
Although Choice Theory is similar in regarding the individual as able to participate...