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Discuss Psychological Explanations of Two or More Types of Addiction

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Discuss psychological explanations of two or more types of addiction. (9+16 marks)

Addiction to smoking occurs when a smoker has developed an uncontrollable dependency on cigarettes so that they find it almost impossible to stop smoking. A gambling addiction is usually termed pathological gambling, which indicates a progressive addiction characterised by increasing preoccupation with gambling and a loss of control over their gambling behaviour.

Experimenting with smoking usually occurs during adolescence and is governed by mainly psychological motives. In some groups, smoking is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, and so in a smoker's peer group the message conveyed is that smoking appears to be an enjoyable activity that promotes popularity ( ( McAllister et al.). ( Jarvis states that children who favour this view of smoking often come from backgrounds that approve of smoking, or where smoking is common. Jarvis argues that this desired image is sufficient for the new smoker to tolerate the unpleasantness of the first few cigarettes, after which the physical effects of the nicotine take over.

This claim that smoking is popular among adolescents is supported by ( Mayeaux et al's study. They found a positive predictive relationship between smoking and popularity two years later at the age of 18 (boys only). However, it is possible that increased awareness of health problems that are associated with smoking among slightly older children would make it seem less mature and therefore make older teens less popular if they smoked.

Nicotine affects smokers both physically and psychologically. It affects brain chemistry, leading to the release of dopamine in the reward circuit of the brain. This leads to a short-lived feeling of pleasure for the smoker, and within hours of their last cigarette, as nicotine levels drop in the blood, smokers experience a loss of concentration and mood swings. This prompts them to have another cigarette in order to avoid the ill effects and to experience the feelings of pleasure again. Smokers then repeat this cycle, suggesting that they are behaving according to classical conditioning – they associate pleasurable feelings with smoking and so repeat the behaviour. A recent ( Canadian study lends further support to the possibility that long term smoking may have an adverse effect on mood because of brain chemistry. This, therefore, shows that psychological explanations are limited and reductionist because they do not take into account other explanations of smoking addiction such as biological, that have good research support.

Pathological gambling is perhaps better explained by psychological methods than smoking addictions. This is because gambling is wholly behavioural, and does not have an addictive substance like nicotine involved. ( Zuckerman (1979) claimed that there are individual differences in the need for optional amounts of stimulation. Sensation seekers look for varied or new experiences, whereas high sensation seekers have a lower appreciation of risk and anticipate arousal as more positive than low sensation seekers. Zuckerman suggested a relationship between sensation seeking and gambling: sensation seekers entertain the risk of monetary loss for the positive reinforcement of high states of arousal. The pathological gambler is seen as one who needs this intense stimulation and excitement.

However, the claim that pathological gamblers should be higher sensation seekers than normal has received little support from research. For example, ( Coventry and Brown found that those who exclusively betted on horse racing in an off-course betting shop were actually lower on sensation seeking than non-gamblers. This implies that it is perhaps the type of gambling that is important in relation to sensation seeking, for example casino gamblers are significantly more involved in what they are betting on, which perhaps results in higher tension and therefore attracts the sensation seeking gamblers. This study's findings led researchers to believe that there are two sub-types of pathological gamblers. One subtype is made up of those who play “active” games and who gamble for the arousal produced by the game. The second subtype is made up of those who are more passive, and who gamble in order to avoid unpleasant emotional states (e.g. boredom).

In conclusion, there is sufficient research evidence to imply that both addictive smoking and pathological gambling are, at least in part, influenced by psychological factors, such as social psychology or the behavioural view of reinforcement. However, ( Nerine and ( Jané (2007) argue that there is an inherent gender bias in much of the research relating to smoking addiction. According to ( Lopéz et al, the onset of smoking, and development of smoking addiction, follow different patterns in men and women. E.g. they found that women start smoking later than men, and that there are gender related differences in both stages and context. Griffiths states that a biopsychosocial approach to gambling is the only way to provide a unified explanation of gambling, which will be complex due to the many factors that influence the development of an addiction to gambling.…...

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