The psychobiology of substance use behaviours and its relationship to personal and social psychological interpretations of these behaviours.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter reflects upon the relationship of psychobiological knowledge concerning substance use behaviours to knowledge coming from the domains of social psychology and clinical psychology practice, with regard to the personal and socially based interpretations which substance users themselves have of these behaviours. Current knowledge regarding psychobiological structures and processes relevant to substance use were briefly reviewed. These included pharmacokinetic processes regulating the bioavailability of a consumed drug, pharmacodynamics processes occurring at neuronal membranes, activity in the neural substrates of reward in response to both drug administration and to social rewards, genetic predispositions to develop substance use behaviours, and the determinants of individual differences in the effects of drugs on psychological functioning. By contrast, social psychological perspectives generally highlighted the role of cognitions associated with these behaviours, with these cognitions providing a medium for the representation of meaning associated with substance use. Clinical psychological literature was then briefly reviewed concerning the specific meaning of ‘self-medication’ which may sometimes be attached to substance use. It was concluded that psychobiological approaches to substance use provided knowledge at a different level of explanation to perspectives focussing upon the meaning of such behaviours, but that no particular level of explanation was inherently superior or more adequate than another. The important consideration was that levels of explanation needed to be appropriate for the specific questions to which answers were being sought.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychobiolpogical Issues in Substance Use and Misuse
EditorsPhilip Murphy
Place of PublicationLondon and New York
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-429-29634-5
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-27361-3
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2020

Publication series

NameCurrent Issues in Psychobiology


  • Substance Use Behaviours
  • Psychobiology
  • Social Psychology
  • Self-Medication Hypothesis
  • Levels of Explanation


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