Operant conditioning is based on behaviour and its consequences. According to operant conditioning principle, substance addiction occurs only if it is rewarding to the person. Most abused substances provide pleasurable experience (Strain, 2009). Positive and negative reinforcements play an important role in determining whether the person will continue the use of the substance. People use drugs and substance to deal with negative and unpleasant life events. Initial euphoria, feeling of enhances happiness, relief from stress and physical pain reinforces the use of substance.
The initial response to substance is considered rewarding. Positive reinforcement leads to continuous and habitual use of the substance. Euphoria and “high” are associated with positive reinforcement. Negative reinforcement occurs when there are withdrawal symptoms. It occurs when person is trying to “avoid reality”. People engage in substance use when they are trying to help environment from oppression.
Pavlovian and operant conditioning have led to increased dependency and drug tolerance. Dependency refers to increased physiological need for substance to achieve certain results. Tolerance refers to decreased sensitivity to the drug as a result of repeated exposure. Tolerance to the drug can be conditioned to the environment where it is consumed. Operant conditioning plays an important role in alcohol tolerance. Behaviour motivated by drugs of abuse is thought to be mediated by hypothalamic neurons (Martin-Fardon et al (2016). Endocannabinoid system is neurobiological mechanism that is involved in drug addiction and relapse mechanism (Maldonado, Valverde and Berrendero, 2006).
Pavlovian and operant conditioning have been used for treatment of substance use. Behaviour modification is used to treat harmful behaviours. Cue exposure therapy is based on principles of pavlovian conditioning. The environmental cues are considered as conditioned stimulus. De-addiction is based on the extinction. Extinction is the process where the conditioned stimulus is presented without unconditioned stimulus. It causes the conditioned response to weaken and eventually disappear. In cue therapy, environmental cues are presented repeatedly without the unconditioned stimulus that is substance.