School of Psychology

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Psychology Seminar Series

You are invited to join us on Friday 8th March 2019 in Lecture Theatre 6, King George VI Building, Newcastle University

Professor Nick Heather, Emeritus Professor of Alcohol and Other Drug Studies, Department of Psychology, Northumbria University

What Does It Mean To Say That Addictive Behaviour Is Compulsive?

“The concept of compulsion, in which addictive behaviour is said to be carried out against the will, is central to the disease theory of addiction and ubiquitous in modern definitions of addiction. In this presentation I will: (i) describe various meanings of compulsion in the literature on addiction; (ii) compare the part thought to be played by compulsion in addiction with its suggested role in obsessive-compulsive disorder; (iii) examine the place of compulsion in influential neurobiological accounts of addiction; (iv) summarise the empirical evidence bearing on the usefulness of the compulsion concept in explanations and descriptions of addictive behaviour and experience. I will then discuss which possible meanings of compulsion can survive an empirical test and what role they might play in understanding addiction, paying particular attention to a distinction between strong and weak senses of compulsion. I will conclude that addictive behaviour cannot be considered compulsive at the time it is carried out, though other possible meanings of compulsion as an explanation or description of addictive behaviour and experience are discussed. Among other conclusions, it will be suggested that, although in some senses of the term it may seem arbitrary whether or not ‘compulsion’ should be retained, its use has important consequences for the public understanding of addiction, and is likely to deter people's attempts to overcome their addictions and limit their chances of success when they do try to change behaviour".

Please forward any enquiries to Nicki Turner 

published on: 1 March 2019