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Example Answers for Section D Addiction Topic Paper 3 June 2018 (AQA)


Last updated 14 Aug 2018

Here are a series of suggested answers for the Addiction topic questions in AQA A Level Psychology Paper 3 (Section D) in June 2018.

Question 41: (6 marks)

One strength of the model is that it views recovery from addiction as a dynamic process rather than an ‘all-or-nothing’ event. It appreciates that overcoming an addiction is a continuing process where individuals might move forwards or backwards or even miss stages out altogether. It has also been useful in practice because it suggests the most effective strategy to use in reducing addiction is determined by the current stage that the person is in. Viewing relapse as inevitable at some point rather than being a failure is also a strength as it means that people can understand that it make take several attempts to reach the maintenance or termination stage and do not give up altogether,

However, there is very little evidence to suggest that stage-based approaches are more effective than other models for treating addiction. It is very unclear whether the model is a good predictor of who is likely to make changes and a useful model should be able to do this. It has also been criticised because the difference between the stages is too arbitrary. For example, Bandura claims that the only difference between the first two stages (pre-contemplation and contemplation) is how much the individual wants to change, which is a quantitative rather than a qualitative measure. In fact, Kraft et al. argue that the six stages can be reduced to just two useful ones – pre-contemplation plus all the others grouped together.

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Question 42: (16 marks)

Drug therapy is one way of reducing addiction. Agonists are drug substitutes that bind to neuron receptors providing a similar effect to an addictive drug. For example, methadone is used to control the withdrawal symptoms suffered when someone is trying to come off heroin. Antagonists bind to receptor sites and block them so that the drug the addict is dependent on does not have its usual effect. An example would be naltrexone, used to treat alchohol addiction. This is the type of drug referred to when the table says ‘tell her to take the pills so she won’t want a cigarette’ as there would be no point if the nicotine had no effect. The suggestion ‘remind her to keep using the patches’ refers to nicotine replacement therapy, which delivers nicotine in a less harmful way, binding to acetylcholine receptors in the mesolimbic pathway, stimulating the release of dopamine.

One advantage of drug therapy is that it is convenient and does not involve the person having to make major changes to their thought processes as they would with a therapy like CBT. There is also evidence to support its effectiveness. Stead et al. reviewed 150 research studies into the effectiveness of nicotine replacement therapy and concluded all forms are more effective in helping smokers to give up than a placebo or no treatment at all. However, there can be problems with side-effects such as sleep disturbance, dizziness and headaches and the drugs do not work in the same way for everyone. Chung et al. found that the effectiveness of naltrexone as a treatment for alcohol addiction depended on a variation in a single gene. Another problem with naltrexone is that it can make fun activities seem ‘uninspiring’, meaning some addicts choose not to continue with the treatment.

Aversion therapy is a behavioural method used to reduce addiction, the aim being to associate the drug with an unpleasant state in a process known as counter-conditioning. This is what is being referred to in the statement ‘make her smoke until she is feeling sick’ as if a person is forced to smoke until they feel sick and this is repeated several times, eventually they will associate smoking with feeling sick and won’t want to smoke any more. This method has been used to treat alcohol addiction, by pairing alcohol with an emetic which causes vomiting, and to treat gambling addiction, by giving electric shocks every time the addict thinks of phrases related to their gambling behaviour.

There is some research support for the use of aversion therapy, but there are ethical concerns regarding its use as it involves induced vomiting or pain. This also means that many patients drop out of the treatment, making it very difficult for researchers to assess its effectiveness. For these reasons covert sensitisation is often used instead, as it involves the individual imagining what the negative effects would feel like rather than actually experiencing them. This relates to the suggestion ‘describe all the horrid things smoking is doing to her body’. McConaghy et al. compared conventional shock aversion therapy with covert sensitisation in treating gambling addiction and found that after a year 90% of those who had received covert sensitisation had reduced their gambling activities compared to 30% who had received aversion therapy. This evidence strongly suggests that covert sensitisation can be a useful behavioural intervention for a range of addictions.

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