Both types of conditioning are presented in the medical practice while dealing with addiction. Classical conditioning means that a certain stimulus raises a certain response. For example, if a person smokes marijuana in a car. A car and marijuana are psychologically tied in mind as a paired association. A car becomes a conditioned stimulus, as a person associates it with taking drugs. If a person continues to take drugs in a car, the pattern will cement. However, if the person continues to use his car without smoking in it, the paired association will break.

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In medical practice, the specialists define the “cues” associated with taking drugs and use them to break association and decrease craving. This practice is called cue exposure therapy. However, it is hard to define every cue and eliminate them in order to minimize the risk of relapse (Horvath, Misra, & Cooper, 2016).

Operant conditioning is a type of learning that occurs as the result of cause-and-effect relationship between certain behavior and consequence of it. Simply put, when behavior is rewarded, it increases, and vice versa. When behavior is punished, it decreases.
Addiction is a learned behavior when pleasure is the mean of reward. Immediate reward of addictive substances psychologically multiplies the effect of operant conditioning. Later, effect of punishment replaces one of reward. Physical punishment for not taking the addictive substances make the addict continue the abusive circle.

Award and punishment may help discontinue addiction. Punishment at early stages, e.g. problems with health, may prevent more serious chemical changes in the brain. However, if punishment occurs at later stages, it might be insufficient. Award is a common practice to persuade an addict to quit. The biggest problem is to find a relevant awarding potential that will outweigh the force of addiction in favor of recovery-oriented choices (Horvath, Misra, Epner, & Cooper, 2016). 

  • Horvath, T. A., Misra, K., & Cooper, G. M. (2016, March 14). Classical Conditioning and Addiction. Retrieved November 02, 2016, from
  • Horvath, T. A., Misra, K., Epner, A. K., & Cooper, G. M. (2016, August 30). Operant Conditioning and Addiction. Retrieved November 02, 2016, from