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The role of the environment in aiding recovery from addiction


Page 4 of 8
Operant conditioning. Cooper et al. (2007) explain that operant conditioning occurs when a given behaviour is said to either increase or decrease as the result of a particular consequence. The consequence functions as a stimulus that changes the frequency with which that behaviour occurs in the future. When the frequency of the behaviour increases, reinforcement has occurred. When the frequency of the behaviour decreases, punishment has occurred (Cooper et al., 2007). Reinforcement can be either positive or negative. Positive reinforcement occurs when future behaviour increases due to the presentation of a given stimulus (Hogarth & Duka, 2006). For example, for individuals who regularly take ecstasy, their increasing behaviour of swallowing MDMA pills can be understood to be reinforced by the resulting euphoric high. Also, negative reinforcement occurs when future behaviour increases due to the termination or removal of a given stimulus (Cooper et al., 2007). For example, a depressed individual might take ecstasy in order to escape from their depressed mood. Therefore, the removal of the depressed mood could potentially increase the future use of ecstasy. The processes of addiction for both classical and operant conditioning are not mutually exclusive and can also work together to explain and strengthen addictive behaviour (Bradizza & Stasiewkz, 2009).
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