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Refining Addiction: Notable Changes and Future Implications

Language nuances change over time as society gains greater awareness and sensitivity regarding the struggles experienced by various groups of people. In the addiction treatment community, we’re well aware of the stigma often associated with the disease and its related vocabulary. The concepts of alcohol and drug dependency weren’t considered an illness until 1956. In fact, addiction wasn’t officially classified as a disease until 1987. The definition of addiction was revised in 2011 and the American Society of Addiction Medicine recently produced an updated definition yet again.

In the newest definition of addiction, which was in development for four years and includes opinions of more than 80 experts in addiction, ASAM focuses heavily on brain circuitry and how one’s behaviors react to their new chemical makeup.

“Addiction is a treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.

Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.”

ASAM’s new definition is a positive step in defining addiction not as a moral failure or the result of poor decision making, but rather as a chronic brain disorder that deserves the same care and treatment as diabetes, cancer or heart disease.

For many loved ones of someone struggling with addiction, it’s easy to solely focus on the behaviors associated with addiction. Erratic behavior, financial issues, and frequent disappearances can all cause conflict with family and friends.

Whether or not addiction is a choice has been a debate for years. Until recently, society focused on the moral implications and social taboos of addiction. Dr. Michael Miller, former president of ASAM, oversaw the development of ASAM’s new definition and noted:

“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. 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.”

With 50 years of experience, we understand the importance of keeping informed about the latest advances in addiction treatment and employing the most effective evidence-based practices. Regardless of where one is in their recovery journey, our comprehensive continuum of care can treat individuals at all stages of addiction and recovery.

For more information about treatment for you or a loved one, call us today at 1-877-MyRehab.

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