To understand society’s shifting and evolving relationship with psychoactive substances it is necessary to investigate the various models and theories that have developed over time to explain their use and misuse. 

Different models have been dominant at different times, although all exist in some form or other today. In his seminal work, ‘Visions of Addiction’ (1988), Stanton Peele identifies numerous models for understanding addiction. He suggests the following test questions when evaluating a range of views:

  • What function does the view expressed serve for the author(s)?
  • What does it do for addicted individuals?
  • What impact does the view have on our society as a whole?
  • How well does it make sense out of the research data?
  • How well does it conform to the reader’s personal observations and experiences?
  • If everybody in the world held this view, what would our world be like?