Aversion therapy is a form of therapy in which the patient is exposed to an unpleasant stimulus under the control of a therapist. The therapist then reinforces aversion behavior. The stimulus can be food or another item that the person has displayed aggression towards, drinking alcohol, taking certain medication he/she is addicted to, physical activity associated with drug use (e.g., shooting up heroin), etc.
Aversion therapy has been criticized as being cruel and unusual. This is because it involves the use of electric shock, nausea-inducing drugs, or other unpleasant stimuli that create an aversion to certain activities, objects, or situations.
Aversion therapy harnesses the concept of learning. Learning is the process by which we gain new knowledge, behaviors, attitudes, and ideas. As a result, learning can occur through both unconscious and conscious pathways.
Classical conditioning is one of those unconscious learning methods. It is also the most straightforward way in which humans can learn. Classical conditioning is the process in which an automatic, conditioned response is paired with specific stimuli.
Which Behavioral Disorders are Best for Aversion Therapy?
The behavioral disorders best used for aversion therapy are the ones that a person would actively avoid. For example, a child who is afraid of dogs may gain enough aversion to them to where he/she won’t approach them again.
This is because a parent might lock his or her toddler in a room with dog food, and then call him/her out when the smell is too strong. Parents could also use aversion therapy by showing their kids pictures of dogs while saying “yuck.,” This leads to the children associating negative feelings towards dogs without ever having been bitten by one or seeing one injure another person before.
How Long Does Aversion Therapy Last?
Aversion therapy can last anywhere from 30 days to six months, depending on the severity of the addiction. It can take place in an outpatient clinic, rehab center, or doctor’s office.
How is Aversion Therapy Performed?
Typically aversion therapy is done through group counseling sessions with counselors and therapists. Also typically, during aversion therapy patients are given vouchers that they can use for rewards after successful completion of a treatment session.
As far as the actual aversion conditioning process itself, this consists of pairing up pleasurable activities with negative effects. This is done by administering electric shocks at stimulus points when the patient consumes drugs or alcohol. This is also done while simultaneously showing images or videos depicting the negative effects of drug or alcohol consumption on mental state, overall health, and social relationships.
What Are the Advantages of Aversion Therapy?
The major advantage is that aversion therapy can be used to reduce cravings for substances, thereby making it easier to stop using them. The aversion also helps people perceive drugs less positively. It does this by decreasing people’s attractiveness through their association with nausea and other unpleasant effects.
Another benefit is that aversion therapy provides positive reinforcement to health care providers or counselors if they continue to prescribe certain medications or provide counseling. Finally, aversion therapy’s varied success rate across many different types of addiction makes it a valuable tool in treating addiction effectively.
How Does Aversion Therapy Work Versus Medication Use in the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorders?
The different types of aversion therapy include:
- One with medication used
- Aversion therapy without medication used
- Aversive therapy that uses counter conditioning
- Aversive therapy that does not use counter conditioning
The medications that aversion groups use are prescribed for anxiety disorders or nausea management. Aversion therapy with medication used includes elements of both aversion therapy and medication therapy.
This is the most widely used type of aversion among addiction treatment center. This is because it provides effective results across multiple types of addictions, such as opioid use disorders and alcoholism.
As the name implies, aversion therapy without medication uses no drugs in treating addiction. Rather there is a process of learning to associate consumption of an addictive substance with negative effects through learning procedures like classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Finally, aversion therapy that uses counter conditioning stimulates the consumption of a substitute behavior.
What are the Different Types of Medications and Drugs that are Used During Aversion Therapy?
The medications used during aversion therapy can differ from patient to patient. These medications are usually prescribed by aversion therapists and also depend on what type of aversion therapy a patient is undergoing.
Medications used during aversion therapy can include:
- Acamprosate (Calcium acetylhomotaurinate or Calcium N-(5-hydroxy-1H-imidazole-4-yl)acetamide 3,4 calcium salt): This drug stops the building up of tolerance for alcohol and withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, depression, and insomnia. This drug was approved in 2002 by the FDA.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse): This medication causes adverse effects when consumed along with drugs that are metabolized by the liver. The adverse effects are nausea, vomiting, flushing of the skin, and shortness of breath. It also decreases tolerance for alcohol consumption. This drug was approved in that 1989 by the FDA.
- Acetaldehyde dehydrogenase inhibitor: This medication binds to enzymes called acetaldehyde dehydrogenases, which stops alcohol from being processed into acetic acid (the chemical responsible for hangovers) at a fast rate. By doing so, it prolongs the feeling of drunkenness after drinking. This drug was approved by the FDA in 2004.
Facts About Aversion Therapy
Aversion therapy requires a highly trained therapist, with a unique skill set. This form of therapy is a highly effective way to help people quit abusing alcohol or drugs. Aversion therapy is usually conducted in controlled settings with either outpatient or inpatient treatment facilities.
In aversion therapy, the patient sees only the negative effects of addiction and not the positive ones. This typically also comes along with some form of physical discomfort as well. The type of discomfort can vary from participant to participant depending on the person’s own personal triggers.
Aversion is done by showing graphic imagery of someone consuming drugs, rather than actually administering them. This creates a strong association between drugs/alcohol and visuals depicting the negative effects that they have on your life.
What is Shock Aversion Therapy and How Does It Differ from Standard Aversion Therapy?
Shock aversion therapy is another form of treatment that focuses on aversion therapy. Participants are generally aware of the fact that aversion therapy differs from standard aversion therapy in that it uses a different technique to try to break the link between drugs/alcohol and the user’s life. Standard aversion therapy requires subjects to take some unpleasant action while shock aversion takes away any choice by exposing them to an electric shock.
Individuals then learn through past experiences that if they do not use drugs or alcohol then there will be no negative consequences for their actions, whether that’s through an electric shock or turning off a television set.
How Do Electric Shocks Work on the Brain When it Comes to Aversion Therapy?
Electric shocks have the effect of interrupting the brain’s normal processing of information. For aversion therapy, doctors use electric shock aversion therapy to create a negative association with drug abuse. This type of aversion therapy causes pain to make people associate it with their desire for drugs or alcohol. By associating pain, rather than pleasure, with using these substances, aversion therapy tries to help addicts stop using the drugs that are causing them problems.
Are There Risks for Electric Shock Aversion Therapy?
The risks for electric shock aversion therapy can vary:
- The electric shock aversion therapy equipment
- The strength of the electrical current
- The length of time a person is exposed to an electric stimulus will all affect possible risks for aversion therapy.
Electric shock aversion therapy is only used when behavior hasn’t changed by other treatments or medications. Electric shock aversion therapy can be effective in some cases, but it has been criticized as being cruel and unusual punishment.
Addiction causes changes in brain function that often makes it more difficult for people to stop their use of drugs or alcohol without treatment. When a person is addicted, he or she may have more cravings and even experience withdrawal symptoms.
Electric shock aversion therapy doesn’t work for everyone who receives it because aversion therapy uses negative reinforcement, which doesn’t work for everyone. In aversion therapy, a therapist uses aversion techniques such as showing individual pictures of people abusing substances while they are receiving mild electric shocks. This causes them to associate images of drug abuse with pain and discomfort so that they no longer feel the need to abuse substances themselves.
Is Aversion Therapy Effective?
During aversion therapy, patients can expect several sessions lasting about 40 minutes each where they will be exposed to stimuli designed to elicit an unpleasant reaction upon presentation of the targeted substance (e.g., cigarettes). The presentation may be in either smoked form or as a cue (e.g., smell) representing the targeted substance.
Aversive stimuli are delivered contingent upon the targeted behavior (e.g., smoking) at a time preceding its occurrence (i.e., warning stimulus). The repetition of this process eventually leads to an aversion for the targeted behavior, i.e., aversion therapy.
Aversion therapy has three possible outcomes:
- It only occurs when treatment is discontinued
- Aversion decreases after discontinuation
- No aversion occurs after treatment is discontinued
Is Aversion Therapy is Still Used Today?
Today, aversion therapy is not used as much as it was before due to the availability of other treatments such as aversion medications and aversion implants. Aversion therapy is used in some situations such as pain management, obesity, gambling addiction, and homosexual behaviors.
Aversion therapy was deemed controversial for its use towards the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, homosexual aversion therapy enjoyed two brief but intense periods of clinical experimentation: between 1950 and 1962 in Czechoslovakia, and between 1962 and 1975 in the British Commonwealth.
The detailed context of its rise came through a geopolitical conflict of the Cold War and a parallel dispute within psychological medicine between Pavlovian and Freudian paradigms. Consequently, Czechoslovakian researchers cautioned readers about low success rates and agitated for homosexual law reform in 1961.
Most of their counterparts selectively ignored or misrepresented the results of ‘the Prague experiment’. Instead, their counterparts celebrated single-case ‘success’ stories in their effort to correct ‘abnormal’ sexual orientation.
Aversion therapy is used less because of the existence of aversion medication and aversion implants that accomplish an aversion result.
- Aversion medication: a medicine whose side effects include nausea or vomiting
- Aversive implant: a device that sends a mild electrical current through metal wires inserted into the skin at specific points around one’s body so as to cause localized discomfort once activated by pressing a button on a remote trigger wirelessly linked to the implanted device
Channel Your Recovery through Live Free Recovery
New Hampshire has the nation’s lowest rate of under-21 alcohol-related deaths. However, 421 annual deaths are attributable to excessive alcohol use. 71.5% of deaths are male. 58.9% of deaths are due to chronic causes, such as alcoholism. New Hampshire averages one alcohol-related death for every 2,623 adults over 18 or 3.8 deaths for every 10,000 adults.
Your options for recovery may seem stacked against you. Therapy for addiction can come with a level of doubt. Aversion therapy may be a way for you to crack the root of your addiction. Live Free Recovery is determined to provide nuanced and detailed care for your needs. If you or someone you know is seeking substance use treatment, reach out to us today.