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Addiction Defined as a Brain Disease Instead of a Substance-Use Disorder


In recent years, the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has changed their definition of addiction to a brain disease rather than a misuse of substances in order to keep up with the latest neuroscience findings. Their new definition states, “Addiction is a chronic brain disorder and not simply a behavioral problem involving too much alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc.; one that is not solely related to problematic substance abuse.”

Former ASAM President, Dr. Michael Miller, said, “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. The disease is about brains, not drugs. It’s about underlying neurology, not outward actions.”

Addiction now defined as a “Primary Disease”

The ASAM has also now defined addiction as a primary disorder. They say that this means “it’s not the result of other causes such as emotional or psychiatric problems.” This means that addiction stands alone from other emotional issues. However, addiction often coexists with emotional or mental issues.

Dr. David Kupfer, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force for the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), agrees with defining addiction as a primary disease.

“Addictive disorders, anxiety disorders, certainly depressive or bipolar disorders, schizophrenia, some of the neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s – they are disorders that are no different than cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, or even asthma in many ways. It’s very nice to see this society endorsing the fact that in many ways addiction may very well be a chronic brain disorder, and not simply a behavioral disorder. And that I totally agree with,” he said.

Addiction Isn’t a Choice

A substantial percentage of normies believe addiction is a choice. However, research tells us otherwise. People do not just decide to become addicts.
Dr. Raju Hajela, chair of the ASAM new definition committee, spoke about choice in regard to addiction. “Simply put, addiction is not a choice, but choice still plays an important role in getting help. Because there is no pill which alone can cure addiction, choosing recovery over unhealthy behaviors is necessary,” said Dr. Hajela.

Disease Needs to be Treated

The ASAM hopes that this new definition will convince more people to seek treatment. A person with heart disease or a broken bone would surely seek treatment for these conditions, so why wouldn’t one seek treatment for a brain disease?

Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises drug rehab centers in Malibu and Los Angeles, said, “The new ASAM definition is an important advance in the treatment of addictions. Our society is officially endorsing the view that addiction is no longer about drugs, but rather changes that take place in the reward circuitry of the brain.”

Works Cited

1. Brauser, Deborah. Addiction a Brain Disease, ASAM Says. Medscape. 31 August 2011. Web. 26 April 2013.
2. Chase, Chevy. ASAM Releases New Definition of Addiction. PR Web. 15 August 2011. Web. 25 April 2013.
3. LifeScience Staff. Addiction Now Defined as Brain Disorder. LifeScience. 15 August 2011. Web. 25 April 2013.


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Filed under: Addiction, Conditions and Disorders, Substance Abuse · Tags: Addiction, alcohol, American Society of Addiction Medicine, ASAM, drugs, mental disorders, normies, substance abuse is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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