Why do people use drugs? Contemporary Theories of Health Behaviors and Addiction

Course Description

Have you ever wondered why some individuals who use alcohol or drugs struggle with addiction while others do not? Have you ever questioned why people make decisions without fully considering the future consequences of their actions? Are you curious about how can this information be used to help create prevention and intervention strategies? If so, this course will help you to further answer these questions by exploring the fields of psychology and public health to address one of the leading causes of preventable death in America: alcohol and substance misuse.

This introductory course will focus on the presentation and critical analysis of prevailing theories that describe the causes and consequences of alcohol and substance use disorders. Throughout this course, you will learn about theories that emphasize how biological, cognitive, social, and environmental factors influence behavior. Further, you will examine how different processes govern patterns of decision-making that explain why people engage in certain behaviors that have long-term negative consequences to their health and wellbeing. Examples of specific theories covered in this course include Behavioral Economic Theory, Theory of Planned Behavior, the Transtheoretical Model, and Expectancy Theory. This one-week course will include lectures and video presentations and, through reading, researching, and discussions about health-behavior theories, you will acquire knowledge regarding factors that impart risk for alcohol and substance use disorders. You will lead and engage in discussions on diverse topics related to psychological and health promotion research. Individual and small group assignments will include selected readings, quizzes, and reflection activities. You will also engage in active learning exercises (i.e., small-group roundtable discussions, in-class “experiments,” short papers, presentations) and will ultimately be expected to apply your knowledge, as well as critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, towards the completion of a final research paper.

In addition, you will receive a critical foundation in how these different theories can be applied to help prevent and reduce alcohol and substance misuse across diverse populations.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe the role of theory in the study of health behavior
  • Identify differences between psychological and contextualist theories of addiction
  • Apply theory to enact individual and group behavior change
  • Describe an example of a successful theory-based intervention that has been applied in real-world settings


There are no prerequisites for this course. Students with an interest in psychology (e.g., clinical, counseling, developmental), psychiatry, epidemiology, medicine, public health, and/or health promotion would likely find this course of interest.


One Section Available to Choose From:

Online sections of Pre-College courses are offered in one of the following modalities: Asynchronous, Mostly asynchronous, or Blended. Please review full information regarding the experience here.

Dates: July 25, 2022 - July 29, 2022
Duration: 1 Weeks
Meeting Times: M-F 3:30P-6:20P
Status: Closed
Format: On-Campus
Instructor(s): Ben Berey
Course Number: 10346