Operant conditioning are the consequences of behavior that influence the likelihood of that behavior to be repeated. A drug addiction is a form of dependency that dives into the reward systems behavioral change. With a drug addiction, the drug acts as a reward, or positive reinforcement, and with the repetition the association between response and reward becomes stronger and stronger. An important principle for understanding problematic ...view middle of the document...
The more powerful the drugs effects will be on that behavior and the more likely the behavior will be repeated.
The consequences from negative reinforcement can be demonstrated in the laboratory by training a rat to press a lever to avoid being punished by, for example, a small electric shock to the feet. Each time the animal receives a light predicting shock, it will perform an operant response to avoid the shock being delivered. Similarly, a dependent heroin user may take the drug (operant response) to avoid going through withdrawal symptoms and the associated physical and psychological discomfort. An important note to emphasize is that these learning mechanisms can operate outside of one’s conscious awareness and not include the decision-making process.
West points out that in this model, “Addiction can be viewed as involving the "development of a habitual behavior pattern that is independent of any conscious evaluation that might be taking place about the costs and benefits of the behavior.”
The impulses to engage in addictive behavior that are generated by this mechanism can be so strong that they overwhelm the desire of the addicts to restrain themselves.