Celebritiy Rehab: From Addiction to Extinction

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While reading the text on conditioned behavior and unconditioned stimuli and responses I thought about the reality TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, which is based on counseling celebrity drug addicts past their addictions. From what I understand, conditioned behavior is a significant part of drug addiction, where the unconditioned stimulus is the drug, and the unconditioned response is the high.

In this case, the environment, setting, or people would be the conditioned stimulus. This creates the need, or the impulsive feeling to take part in using the drug, which is the conditioned stimulus. Addicts tend to be reminded of their addictions based on where they are, and whom they are with. A major part of curing or counseling drug addicts is keeping them in a similar environment with addicts, however removing the conditioned stimulus or the drug.

When Dr. Drew uses the extinction process, he slowly exposes his patience to the conditioned stimulus (environment) to create the conditioned response (Cravings) however he doesn't expose them to the unconditioned stimulus (Drug). Gradually overtime a new conditioned response to the similar conditioned stimulus, diminishes the original conditioned response; which was taking the drug. The addiction diminishes through the process of addiction, for the time being. However the patient can relapse through spontaneous recover where the Conditioned response reappears when the patient exposes himself to the unconditioned stimulus once again. My question is, is the extinction process really an "extinction" process if can come back at anytime?

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Once learned, some type of synaptic pattern has been established that can be revisted with the proper stimulation. So some behaviors never completely extinguish.

Classical conditioning also plays a role in why some drug addicts overdose. A person can become tolerant of a drug like heroin after many injections and will need to increase dosage in order to get the same high. Most often this is done in a familiar location like a person's home.

Yet some will score when on the road, (see Shannon Hoon of the band Blind Melon) and take the increased dose in an unfamiliar place.

Since the physical cues of the home environment were not there to signal the body to prepare for a large hit of smack, the person is lefy more physiologically vulnerable to the harm of the drug.

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