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Research Paper on Addiction

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Addiction and relapse are intrinsically linked concepts and are studied carefully from the undergrad level all the way beyond your dissertation. On one hand, addiction carries with it a very high rate of relapse, and this effect is often exacerbated by internal and external stressors. At the same time, there are significant and substantial steps that can be taken to prevent relapse. This sample research paper discusses the current thinking on the nature of relapse and argues in favor of a deeper understanding of what causes relapse in order to prevent further occurrences. We encourage you to check out the post below and gain important information regarding the nature of addiction and relapse, or consult our webpage about custom writing and editing services.

Addiction and relapse

Addiction carries an extremely high relapse rate. This rate is indiscriminate between men and women. In evaluating this phenomena, stress is a key factor that influences relapse. The mind of the addicted person is affected in such a way that their coping mechanisms for stress are inadequate to prevent relapse. The goal of treatment is relapse prevention. Therefore, this paper reviews the role of stress and its effect on the addicted person. Additionally, this paper discusses the combination of cognitive-behavioral skill training and the role of medication in helping addicted persons cope with stress without engaging in a relapse. The disease of addiction is prevalent and relapse-rate is high. Therefore, inquiry into the nature of addiction as a disease, and effective treatment methods of relapse prevention are worthy of continued scholarly work in the field. 

Facts about relapse

  • Sixty percent (60%) of drug addicts and alcoholics relapse.
  • Since 2002 illicit drug use has increased to affecting approximately 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or older accounting for 8.9% of the population.
    • Of these, 17.9 million Americans, or 7% of the population were dependent on alcohol in 2010 according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  While an estimated 9% of Americans needed treatment only 1%, 2.6 million, were receiving treatment (NIDA, 2012).
    • In addition to the startling size of the population affected by drug addiction, there is major concern about the low percentage of those who are engaged in treatment.
  • The crisis due to opioid addiction (including opium, morphine, oxycontin, and heroin) affects the alarming rate of relapse as well.

Hopefully, with better understanding of the causes for relapse, treatment will be more successful and the relapse rate will drop.

Impact of marriage on relapse and addiction

There seemed to be no difference in relapse rates between men and women.  However, marriage seemed to affect men and women slightly differently. Women were more sensitive to the negative effects of the damage of relapse on interpersonal relationships. Therefore they were less likely to relapse for fear of damage to their marriages or other interpersonal relationships. It was found that women were more likely to be married to heavily drinking men. The opposite was more prevalent where men were married to light to non-drinking spouses (Walitzer, 135). Relapsing women were more likely to relapse as part of a social phenomenon than men where the issue is more of isolation (Walitzer, 140-141). Although there was some evidence that married addicts were less likely to relapse, presumably because of having a relationship, it was not shown to be determinative in predicting relapse.

Stress as a feature of addicts' relapse

Considering the high relapse rate it is important to identify if there are any particular causes that can be addressed.

  • Stress is a key aspect of addiction relapse.
  • Experts such as Dr. Sinha outlines that recent information is becoming known that neurological pathways are altered by the addiction. He notes that “Recent neurobiological evidence indicates an important role of brain stress pathway in addiction relapse" (Sinha, 393). Because of these alteration in neurobiological pathways, identifying the effect of these altered pathways is helpful in understanding the ultimate role of stress in relapse.
  • Dr. Sinha continues, “Evidence suggests that the neural circuits involved in stress overlap substantially with brain systems involved in a drug reward” (Sinha, 388). In stressful situations the addicts' altered brain pathway would seek the drug reward as a coping mechanism for the apparent stress. This is an altered pathway because the addict would have experience and near compulsion to relapse as it was their long practiced coping mechanism for stress.

Impact of stress

Stress and a lack of reasoning can justify a relapse to a recovering alcoholic.  Although friends may reason with an alcoholic that taking that first drink is a pathway to destruction, this advice is disregarded in stressful situations.

  • An example is described in Chapter 3 of the Alcoholics Anonymous “Big Book”. It says, “Thus started one more journey to the asylum for Jim. Here the threat of [great loss, mental and physical pain] easily pushed aside in favor of the idea that he could take whiskey if only he mixed it with milk” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 35-36).
  • This supports Sinha’s notion that the neurobiological brain stress pathways are altered in the addict's mind. Therefore, addressing these altered and destructive reactions to stress should be addressed in successful treatment.

Studying this field? Consider Ultius to help with your thesis.

Treatment for addiction

Ultimately, the desired outcome is that the addict will not relapse. Marlatt describes some areas for treatment including skills training in self-efficacy, coping strategies, emotional states, and cravings as useful in preventing relapse.

“Either stress or temptation coping can take the form of cognitive coping, using mental processes and ‘willpower’ to control behavior, and behavioral coping, which involves some form of action” (Marlatt, 13).

Here Marlatt describes the various forms of cognitive-behavioral skills that can be taught, with the idea that when stress arises, the addict would rely on these skills rather than relapse. The focus of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to change unhealthy behavior patterns and actions.

Other research is being conducted in identifying medications that may help limit the stress for the recovering addict. Sinha advocates for research in the area of identifying therapeutic agents complementing cognitive-behavioral training.  Marlatt notes the low compliance rates with drugs like Anatabuse (Marlatt, 30). However, he notes that Antabuse was designed to reinforce the negative consequences of relapsing.  Antabuse was not designed to reduce the altered brain stress pathways in the addicted person.

Meditation as an alternative?

An alternative to medication includes meditation as a way to avoid relapse and handle stress better.  Marlatt discusses a study performed on addicted prisoners which showed lower relapse rates among addicted prisoners who underwent meditation training over the control group (Marlatt, 30). Further inquiry into the effect of meditation on the identified altered neuro-pathways would be beneficial in showing its efficacy. 


Addiction is prevalent in our country and continues to affect millions of people. Incidents of relapse are extremely high in people with addiction. A consistent trigger for a relapse seems to be the urge to succumb to addiction in times of stress. Because the neuro-biological pathways that handle stress as well as the cravings for the 'drug of choice' are closely linked, stress is a powerful motivator for relapse. Addressing this underlying stress with healthy responses over relapse is the goal of treatment of addiction.

Therefore, inquiry into therapeutic modalities including cognitive-behavioral therapy as well as medication research, and alternative therapies is beneficial to relapse prevention. There is some good work in the field so far, but the problem remains and there is plenty of room left for studies to be conducted and research papers written. With diligence, viable and effective solutions for the addicted will be achieved.

Works Cited

Marlatt, G. Alan, and Dennis M. Donovan. "Relapse Prevention for Alcohol and Drug Problems." Relapse prevention: maintenance strategies in the treatment of addictive behaviors. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press, 2005. 1-44. Print.

"More About Alcoholism." Alcoholics Anonymous. New York City, New York USA: Alcoholics Anonymous, 1990. 30-36. Print."Drug Addiction, Alcohol Abuse Treatment & Rehab | Phoenix House." Drug Addiction, Alcohol Abuse Treatment & Rehab | Phoenix House. National Institutes of Health, 1 Aug. 2012. Web. 28 Nov. 2012. <http://drugabuse.gov>.

Sinha, Rajita. "The role of stress in addiction relapse." Current psychiatry reports 9.5 (2007): 388-395. Print.

Walitzer, Kimberly. "Gender differences in alcohol and substance use relapse." Clinical Psychology Review 26.1 (2006): 128-148. Print.

Witkiewitz, Kimberly, and G.A. Marlatt. "Relapse prevention for alcohol and drug problems: that was Zen, this is Tao." American Psychologist 59.4 (2004): 224-35. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.



Ultius, Inc. "Research Paper on Addiction." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 11 Aug. 2013. https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/research-paper-on-addiction.html

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Ultius, Inc. (2013, August 11). Research Paper on Addiction. Retrieved from Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services, https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/research-paper-on-addiction.html

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Ultius, Inc. "Research Paper on Addiction." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 11, 2013 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/research-paper-on-addiction.html.

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Ultius, Inc. "Research Paper on Addiction." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. August 11, 2013 https://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/research-paper-on-addiction.html.

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