If individual and cultural beliefs have been given short shrift in addiction theories, then values have been considered in such models primarily as illustrations of moralistic prejudice.

Whereas a layperson might condemn the values of a mother who uses drugs or drinks excessively during pregnancy or of a person who assaults others when drunk or using drugs, some pharmacologically based theorists instead emphasize the potency of the drug and the irrevocable need of the person to obtain the drug at the cost of any other consideration whatsoever.

Peele (1987) turned this model on its head— claiming that people become addicted due to a failure of other values that maintain ordinary life involvements. In Peele's view, personal values influence whether people use drugs, whether they use them regularly, whether they become addicted, and whether they remain addicted. These values included prosocial behavior (including achievement, concern for others, and community involvement), self-awareness and intellectual activity, moderation and healthfulness, and self-respect. Evidence for the role of values in addiction are the explicit values people cite as reasons for giving up addictions to cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine (Reinarman, Waldorf, & Murphy, 1991).

(See also: Addiction: Concepts and Definitions; Adjunctive Drug Taking; Asia, Drug Use in; Causes of Substance Abuse; Expectancies; Religion and Drug Use)


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PEELE, S. (1985). The meaning of addiction: Compulsive experience and its interpretation. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books/Heath.

Reinarman, C., Waldorf, D., & Murphy, S. (1991). Cocaine changes: The experience of using and quitting. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Vaillant, G. E. (1983). The natural history of alcoholism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Stanton Peele

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