Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type




First Advisor

Joy Holloway

Second Advisor

Brad Elison

Third Advisor

Chris Fuller


Drug and alcohol addiction is a very controversial issue in America today, and it is extremely common in our society. Evidence suggests that biological and physiological brain mechanisms are involved in drug and alcohol addiction, and that emotional and psychological development also play a key role. Furthermore addiction can be seen in terms of interpersonal relationships: the family system involved and the individual’s relationship with his or her drug of choice. Lastly, addiction can be understood in terms of effective treatment and what it takes for a person to recover. The purpose of this thesis was to explore various perspectives on drug and alcohol addiction, in order to develop a better understanding of the nature of this disease. Findings indicated that there are significant differences in the brain structure and function of individuals with an addiction when compared to non-addicted individuals. Research studies and personal interviews suggest that there also seems to be a strong connection between negative emotions and the development of a substance abuse problem. Additionally, it was determined that the effects of an addiction can influence entire family systems causing significant dysfunction (Black, 1981). The findings in this paper indicate that addictions are extremely complex and the bio-physiological, emotional, and relational aspects of an addiction all are important factors in understanding this disease.