The Psychology of Addiction

Module titleThe Psychology of Addiction
Module codePSY3437
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Lee Hogarth (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

A diverse range of psychological theories have been proposed to explain addictive behaviour. Whereas animal learning theorists emphasise the role of Pavlovian and instrumental learning, human cognitive psychologists advocate biases in selective processing, behavioural economists favour notions of rational choice, neuropharmacologists focus on reward substrates, cognitive impairment and hypofrontality, while clinical psychologists highlight the importance of psychiatric comorbidity. Reconciling these accounts offers an enduring challenge to students of addiction psychology. The session in each week will focus on a single theoretical account of addictive behaviour via a lecture and ≈4 individual student presentations with discussion. Assessment will be made through coursework, individual student presentation and a written exam.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The objective of the module is for you to arrive at an understanding of what causes addiction, and what the best approach is to counteract it, from amongst the multitude of theoretical accounts. There is sufficient flexibility built into the module such that you can select the material that you wish to focus on to develop your favoured specialisation, for example, clinical, education, pharmacological, neuroscience. The module covers basic science and clinical science in roughly equal proportion.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Articulate theories of addiction
  • 2. Confidently and persuasively orally communicate scientific evidence to substantiate theoretical arguments concerning the nature of human addictive behaviour

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Acquire detailed knowledge within the discipline, and demonstrate advanced critical understanding of this knowledge
  • 4. Review and critically evaluate published work at an advanced level and present a logical, coherent and sustained argument to support conclusions

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Interact effectively and supportively within a learning group
  • 6. Manage your own learning using the full range of resources
  • 7. Take responsibility for your own work and criticise it
  • 8. Engage effectively in debate in a professional manner

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module consists of a series of eleven seminars, as follows:


Seminar 1:   Course structure/assessment, presentation schedule, introductory video, read/discuss key paper.

Seminar 2:   Withdrawal

Seminar 3:   Positive reinforcement

Seminar 4:   Individual differences

Seminar 5:   Psychiatric comorbidity

Seminar 6:   Neural reward and regulation

Seminar 7:   Pavlovian and instrumental processes

Seminar 8:   Behaviour therapy

Seminar 9:   Pharmacotherapy

Seminar 10:   Prevention and prohibition

Seminar 11:   + Revision session + Manufacture and distribution

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33Seminars (11 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study57Reading in preparation for weekly seminars, following reading list recommendations linked to ELE module homepage and independently exploring further sources of information using links provided.
Guided Independent Study30Further exploratory research and subsequent reading in preparation for writing CA component.
Guided Independent Study30Further exploratory research and subsequent reading in preparation for final exam.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small-group discussions within seminars1-13, 15-16Oral, within plenary sessions

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination503 hoursAllWritten, generic feedback posted on module ELE page
Essay402000 wordsAllWritten, individual feedback on script, generic feedback posted on ELE
Oral presentation1015 minutesAllWritten


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExaminationAllAugust Ref/Def
EssayEssayAllAugust Ref/Def
Oral presentationOral presentationAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Three assessments are required for this module. Where you have been referred/deferred in the examination you will have the opportunity to take a second examination in the August/September re-assessment period. . For a deferred presentation, reassessment will be by arrangement with the module convenor. For a referred presentation, reassessment shall be by individual presentation in the August Ref/Def period. Where you have been referred/deferred in the coursework you will be required to resubmit the coursework. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%; deferred marks are not capped.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

There is no core text for this module. The following articles provide a good overview of many of the issues discussed in each week:

  • Hall W, Carter A, Forlini C (2015) The brain disease model of addiction: is it supported by the evidence and has it delivered on its promises? The Lancet Psychiatry 2: 105-110.
  • Wise RA, Koob GF (2014) The development and maintenance of drug addiction. Neuropsychopharmacology 39: 254-262.
  • Heyman, G. M. (2013). Addiction and choice: Theory and new data. Frontiers in psychiatry, 4.
  • Heilig M, Egli M, Crabbe JC, Becker HC (2010) Acute withdrawal, protracted abstinence and negative affect in alcoholism: are they linked? Addict Biol 15: 169-184.
  • Naqvi NH, Rudrauf D, Damasio H, Bechara A (2007) Damage to the insula disrupts addiction to cigarette smoking. Science 315: 531-534.
  • Corbit, L. H., Nie, H., & Janak, P. H. (2012). Habitual alcohol seeking: Time course and the contribution of subregions of the dorsal striatum. Biological Psychiatry, 72(5), 389-395.
  • Conrod, P. J., Castellanos-Ryan, N., & Strang, J. (2010). Brief, personality-targeted coping skills interventions and survival as a non–drug user over a 2-year period during adolescence. Archives of General Psychiatry, 67(1), 85-93.
  • Pettinati HM, O’Brien CP, Dundon WD (2013) Current status of co-occurring mood and substance use disorders: A new therapeutic target. Am J Psychiatry 170: 23-30.
  • Champion, K. E., Newton, N. C., Barrett, E. L., & Teesson, M. (2013). A systematic review of school-based alcohol and other drug prevention programs facilitated by computers or the internet. Drug and alcohol review, 32(2), 115-123.
  • Greenwald G (2009) Drug decriminalization in Portugal: lessons for creating fair and successful drug policies. Cato Institute Whitepaper Series.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychology, addictive behaviour

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

PSY2303 Cognition and Emotion, PSY2304 Biological Basis of Behaviour or equivalents

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date