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A New Definition for Addiction?

graphic representation of brain

Is addiction a chronic brain disorder or is it a behavioral problem? The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has just issued a new definition of addiction and the answer may surprise you. According to ASAM, addiction to drugs, alcohol, sex or gambling should be considered the result of an ongoing brain condition. Their announcement comes after conducting a nearly five-year-long research study which included the input and involvement of over 80 professionals and experts. Dr. Michael Miller managed the process that culminated in this new definition of addiction. “At its core, addiction isn’t just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem. It’s a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas,” he said. “Many behaviors driven by addiction are real problems and sometimes criminal acts. But the disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions.” ASAM’s definition also defines addiction as a primary disease. This means that addiction should not be viewed as an outgrowth of issues such as psychological or emotional conditions. Because addiction is described as a chronic disease, the implication is that it should be treated and managed over the lifespan just as other chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. ASAM’s new description comes in light of the debate about whether addicts choose their behavior. Dr. Raju Hajela chaired the ASAM committee which determined the new definition for addiction. According to him, “The disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings, and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them. Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.” Bolstering this position, Miller added, “So, we have to stop moralizing, blaming, controlling or smirking at the person with the disease of addiction, and start creating opportunities for individuals and families to get help and providing assistance in choosing proper treatment.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help. At Arbor Behavioral Healthcare, you will meet knowledgeable, compassionate professionals who understand addiction in all its forms. We use an integrative and holistic approach to treat addiction and mental health issues. No treatment is one-size-fits-all, and at The Arbor, you will have a team of experts prepared to create your customized treatment plan. We offer care for your mind, body, and spirit so you can heal from the inside out and look forward to a lifetime of sobriety and wellness. If you are ready to take the first step in your recovery, please call us today at 844-413-2690.