The psychology of addictions ADED1101E

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: Short Courses
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 1 (SCQF level 7)
  • Typically Offered: Runs Throughout Semesters 1 and 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

How are addictions different from obsessions, compulsions and mere bad habits? How do they develop and can they be overcome? These issues will be explored in reference to alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, eating and other excessive behaviours in which people can become trapped.


Blocks 1 and 2

2 hours per week for 20 weeks

Mondays, 19.30-21.30

Requirements of Entry


Excluded Courses





Two short essays (1,500 words; 25% each) and one longer essay (3,000 words; 50%)

Course Aims

To examine a range of excessive activities linked to concepts of addiction (and, sometimes, to that of compulsion and attachment), including both substance - centred (e.g., drinking alcohol) and behavioural (e.g., sex or gambling). To review the theoretical systems devised to account for their development, the psychological and social problems arising from them and the theory, practice and outcomes of some of the 'treatments' applied to them.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of the course, students should be able to:


■ Describe the core features of an addiction and identify its boundaries and differentiate it from other closely related motivational phenomena such as obsession/compulsions, habits and attachments

■ Delineate and discuss the core features of alcohol abuse 'Alcoholism', alcohol related problems and problem-drinking and the various models (e.g. moral, disease, social learning) that are used as frameworks for understanding it

■ Describe and critically appreciate the traditional medically dominant 'Classical Disease Model' of alcoholism and its modern varieties and derivatives such as the Alcohol Dependence Syndrome

■ Present, understand and take personal view on the scientific and ethical controversies in the recent past surrounding controlled drinking

■ Be well-informed of the short and long term effects and personal (and, to a lesser extent, social) problems surrounding the use of, abuse of and addiction to the full range of drugs (mostly illegal) currently available for 'blowing your mind'

■ Know and be able to review with critical appreciation a range of theories of drug abuse and the treatment methods associated with them

■ Understand the social and clinical aspects of policies of harm reduction in the illegal drugs field, be able to review the outcomes of their implementation and possibly take a well-argued view of their own on the issues surrounding the legalisation of various substances

■ Understand the independence of the concept of addiction from the narrower phenomena of substance abuse and dependence and identify the commonalities in a range of behavioural addictions including gambling, sex, eating and criminal offending

■ Describe, identify and understand commonalities in the theories explaining relapses and guiding their prevention and treatment

■ Understand and critically appreciate commonalities in the old and new methods of treatment of addictions

■ Work towards a general theory of addictions, including their development and treatment

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment