Essay On The Aversion Therapy & Alcoholism

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The Aversion Therapy : Alcoholism

    The aversion therapy is a psychotherapy technique used to cause a patient to reduce or completely avoid undesirable behavior. Classically conditioning the person to associate the behavior with a stimulus that is undesirable is important. As with other behavior therapies, the aversion therapy is a treatment grounded in the learning theory. The learning theory states in one of its basic principles that if behavior can be learned then consequently; the behavior can also be unlearned. For this reason, it can be argued that indeed the aversion therapy is an application of the branch of learning referred to as classical conditioning. In this case, the drinking of alcohol many at times pairing done with with negative stimulus, something that is undesirable. After some time, the unpleasant feelings or sensations, then become associated with drinking of alcohol, and the drinking of alcohol goes down automatically or it stops altogether. There is a need to understand that there is a difference between classical conditioning and operant conditioning. This is because the operant conditioning usually involves the rewarding of punishment after a certain completion of behavior. Therefore, when applied to the aversive stimulus, punishment is what it is referred to.

    The ultimate goal of the alcohol aversion therapy is to decrease and completely eliminate alcoholism. A treatment that is given to alcoholics focuses on the changing of the specific behavior, that is, alcoholism by using insight oriented approaches that often focus on the uncovering of the unconscious motives with a bid to produce the desired change. The aversion therapy can be given to patients in either the inpatient or the outpatient settings; however, it is important to note that for intervention in the multimodal program to work in order for the patient to recover fully. This paper is going to examine three articles that discuss how aversion therapy program works in terms of reducing and completely eliminating alcoholism.

Treatment outcome and patient characteristics in aversion therapy program for alcoholism

    The article argues that the aversion therapy for alcoholism used in selected hospitals all over the world since the year 1935. However, during the 21st century, this treatment has gone viral and has consequently been availed to many hospitals in different states. The argument is that the aversion is a conditioning in the Classic conditioning (Wiens, 1983). Negative stimuli associated with a certain thing, and consequently the person learns to associate, for example, alcohol with a bad taste and smell. Therefore, the work of the treatment program that is aversion therapy is to pair the smell as well as the taste of alcohol with chemically induced emesis. This approach response to alcohol should be punished immediately through an aversive reaction, and the said patient transfers all the resulting avoidance of alcohol from the clinical situation to each and every opportunity that he or she will have. The desire to drink is, therefore, curtailed, and the person starts responding well to the clinical aversion therapy.

    Just like the normal classical conditioning, there is a need to ensure that there are recaps and reinforcement of the negative stimuli related to alcohol. The article lucidly explains that there should be a clear schedule of how the reinforcements done should be conducted. These recaps and return reinforcements sessions are contingent upon the sobriety of the patient (Wiens, 1983). Further, the fact that all the recaps were contingent upon the abstinence according to the article introduces a statistical artifact into the data. The data shows that indeed the recap series, planned aftercare the contact are an extremely important component of the treatment program of the patient.

    There are many data given in the article it argues, for example, that, in the year 1978, the patients overall mean number of recaps were around 3.96. This, therefore, means that the standard deviation was around 2.18. The average length of the patient’s sobriety was around 8.91 months with a standard deviation of around 4.45. The article presents the fact that aversion therapy made available in many hospitals, in the world, is gaining popularity each and every day in different states. The nightmare that is alcoholism can be treated and psychologists, therefore, have a unique opportunity to participate in the outcome research on this treatment method, and they can help specify the treatment program as well as the patient characteristics. This will undoubtedly come a long way as far as treatment for alcoholism is in question. The data reported in this article shows, that indeed more than 60% of patients treated with aversion therapy often maintain continuous abstinence of alcohol for over a period of one year. Moreover, it shows that there are no discrepancies when it comes to gender and that the female and male alcoholics can easily be treated with equal success (Wiens, 1983). There is also an emphasis on the after treatment which often includes recaps and reinforcement of the negative stimuli. This is imperative as it ensures that the patient’s treatment kept on the positive side and that the patient does not end up in alcoholism again after undergoing aversion therapy.

Alcohol-aversion Therapy: Relation between strength of aversion and abstinence

    This article presents various facts regarding alcohol aversion therapy. It states that alcohol aversion therapy and cigarette aversion therapy are often important in the reduction of addiction to both alcohol and cigarettes respectively. The pairing of alcohol with the malaise often produces many changes in response to the target flavor. Firstly, there is a decreased flavor sampling in the post treatment tests (Cannon, 1986). Secondly, there is the observance of negative ratings when it comes to testing. The study provides evidence to show that indeed the magnitude of conditioned alcohol aversion adversely affects the clinical outcome. The paper cites that Cannon et al. (1981) conditioned alcohol aversion predicted posttreatment abstinence. However, there is an effect on the size among the relapses between the relapse latency and the Conditioned alcohol aversion.

    According to the article, there is a need to give a strong aversion (Cannon, 1986). The negative stimuli that are to the patient suffering from alcoholism should be strong so that the patient does not fall into a relapse. Just as classical conditioning explains, there is a need to ensure that indeed the stimuli given are strong enough so as to create a conditioned response. If not, the conditioned response will be too weak, and the patient will fall back into alcoholism (Cannon, 1986). The article did a research on the relationship that exists between the health of the aversion and abstinence. The shows through relationships with taste-test alcohol consumption that indeed there exists a relationship between abstinence of alcohol and the power of the aversion.

    The study shows that indeed the lack of correlation of taste-test alcohol consumption and follows up measures appears to be an incongruous outcome. The article shows that the taste- test consumption many will not be able to test the relapse latency because of the following reasons. Firstly, the taste test procedures often place an artificial ceiling when it comes to alcohol intake. Therefore, although there might greater access to the alcohol which might then permit a more valid assay for aversion, the validity of the strategy would have to be somehow weighed against the therapeutic and ethical concerns (Cannon, 1986). Secondly, the experimenter demands effect many somehow influence both the attitudinal and consumption ratings in the taste tests. Such effects are, therefore, not so high so as to mask the differential impact of the no aversive treatments and aversive treatments on the taste-test measures. However, there are times that they may be sufficient to attenuate the correlations that come with the outcomes. Thirdly, it cannot be ruled out that the taste test measures are only less sensitive measures as compared to the CR of the cognitive/physiological processes related to the effectiveness of the aversion techniques.

Pharmacological aversion treatment of alcohol dependence. I. Production and prediction of conditioned alcohol

    The article looks into eight two hospitalized alcoholics who are receiving pharmacological aversion therapy more often referred to as PAT (Howard, 2001). The hospitalized alcoholics given a 10 day treatment interval completed psychophysiological and behavioral measures that evaluated the conditioned aversion of alcohol. The pre-post assessments provided in the article are able to show a convergent support for the efficacy of the Pharmacological aversion therapy vis a vis, the production of the supposed conditioned aversion given to the alcoholics.

    There are more than 1300 studies that examine the taste aversion conditioning and how it reduces craving for alcohol. These reports demonstrate lucidly that the taste aversions can be effectively established to highly familiar substances through the frequent conditioning trials as well as discrimination training (Howard, 2001). Secondly, the studies have been able to show that indeed that the cognitive mediation is not imperative for the formation of the taste aversions. Lastly, the conditioned taste aversions that are to the alcoholics are often extremely resistant to extinction.

    The subjects used in this paper were recruited after the admissions to the SSH, medical examinations as well as after the detoxification. The participants had to provide medical examinations, which showed that indeed there were no medicinal contradictions to the PAT. For example, the esophageal avarice were able to provide the name of the collateral informant for the after treatment purposes, and it this has never been seen after the SSH. All the participants in the experiment verbally agreed to participate in the experiment and more they also signed what can be described as informed consent form approved by the University of Washington, as well as the Investigational review board. The experiment went over for a period of the 6-month period and around 214 patients were treated for alcohol dependence. Each patient prescribed with the standard treatment regimen of the SSH; that consisted of five intense conditioning trials delivered for over a period of 10 days (Howard, 2001). The conditioning sessions conducted on different days that were alternating. The findings of the investigation show that the PAT produced conditioned alcohol aversion. The patients report that indeed positive alcohol related expectancies decreases substantially. Further, the confidence instilled in the patients and their belief that they could refrain from drinking in higher risk situations increased significantly after the PAT. The post treatment SCQ score indicated that the patients were confident that they could resist later situational inducements that would force them to drink (Howard, 2001).

    In summary, the article argues that the psychophysiological, cognitive and behavioral measures often provide convergent support for the PAT to be successful. Further, the efficacy of the PAT with respect to the production of the conditioned alcohol aversion is also measured. In this measurement, there is one critical issue that is raised and it is in regards to whether or not the observed changes that were seen in the patients were attributable to the PAT per see or to other components that existed within the treatment package (Howard, 2001). This study, therefore, shows that PAT is indeed effective in the production of the conditioned aversion to alcohol. However, it is important to note that there are limitations in this experiment; this is because a large and randomized controlled trial would have been better as it would have provided a stronger test of the effectiveness that comes with PAT. However, this study was relatively small, and although it shows that the PAT is effective in creating a conditioned aversion to alcohol, it was too small.

    In conclusion, more than 35,000 alcoholics has been able to receive chemical aversion often referred to as emetic therapy worldwide since the 1930’s. The chemical aversion therapy can be described as behavior modification technique which is often used to treat alcoholism. The chemical aversion therapy often facilitates alcohol abstinence through the development of conditioned aversions to sight of alcohol beverages, smell and taste. This is often accomplished after a negative stimulus is paired with alcohol which often brings unpleasant symptoms such as nausea. The nausea is often induced by several chemical agents. There are a number of drugs that are often used when it comes to chemical aversion therapy; however, the most common are apomorphine, as well as lithium (Howard, 2001). However, it is important to understand that none of the drugs that are currently in use has been approved by the Food and Drug administration to be used specifically for chemical aversion therapy in the treatment for alcoholism. Therefore, when these drugs are employed in this therapy, there is often a need for the patients undergo treatment to keep them safe and make sure that there no negative reactions and allergies occurring. The articles clearly show that indeed that the chemical aversion therapy often works when it comes to the treatment of alcoholism. Further studies should be conducted in this subject so as to determine which drugs are best when it comes to create a strong negative stimulus, and the number of reinforcements that are needed in order for the patient not to find him or herself in a relapse


Arthur Wiens, C. M. (1983). Treatment Outcome and Patient Characteristics in an Aversion Therapy Program for Alcoholism. Oregon Health Sciences, 1089-1096.
Dale Cannon, T. B. (1986). Alcohol-Aversion Therapy: Relation Between Strength. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 825-830.
Howard, M. (2001). Pharmacological aversion treatment of alcohol dependence. I. Production and prediction of conditioned alcohol. Drug Alcohol Abuse, 561-585.