Addiction as excessive appetite

Jim Orford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

157 Citations (Scopus)


The excessive appetite model of addiction is summarized. The paper begins by considering the forms of excessive appetite which a comprehensive model should account for: principally, excessive drinking, smoking, gambling, eating, sex and a diverse range of drugs including at least heroin, cocaine and cannabis. The model rests, therefore, upon a broader concept of what constitutes addiction than the traditional, more restricted, and arguably misleading definition. The core elements of the model include: very skewed consumption distribution curves; restraint, control or deterrence; positive incentive learning mechanisms which highlight varied forms of rapid emotional change as rewards, and wide cue conditioning; complex memory schemata; secondary, acquired emotional regulation cycles, of which 'chasing', 'the abstinence violation effect' and neuroadaptation are examples; and the consequences of conflict. These primary and secondary processes, occurring within diverse sociocultural contexts, are sufficient to account for the development of a strong attachment to an appetitive activity, such that self-control is diminished, and behaviour may appear to be disease-like. Giving up excess is a natural consequence of conflict arising from strong and troublesome appetite. There is much supportive evidence that change occurs outside expert treatment, and that when it occurs within treatment the change processes are more basic and universal than those espoused by fashionable expert theories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2001


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