Addiction Now Defined as Chronic Brain Disease, Not Just Bad Behaviour


August 17, 2011

Addiction Now Defined as Chronic Brain Disease, Not Just Bad Behaviour

The American Society of Addiction medicine (ASAM) has released a new definition for Addiction following a four-year consultation process. Addiction is now defined as a chronic brain disease and not just a collection of symptoms such as cravings and mood swings, according to a team of more than 80 experts.

Two decades of advancements in neuroscience convinced ASAM officials that addiction should be redefined by what’s going on in the brain. For instance, research has shown that addiction affects the brain’s reward circuitry, such that memories of previous experiences with food, sex, alcohol and other drugs trigger cravings and more addictive behaviors. Brain circuitry that governs impulse control and judgment is also altered in the brains of addicts, resulting in the nonsensical pursuit of “rewards,” such as alcohol and other drugs.
When people see compulsive and damaging behaviours in friends or family members—or public figures such as celebrities or politicians—they often focus only on the substance use or behaviours as the problem. Addiction is about a lot more than people behaving badly,’ said study author Dr. Michael M. Miller. This was true whether the addiction was drugs and alcohol, gambling or compulsive eating. “Many behaviours 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,” he added.
A long-standing debate has roiled over whether addicts have a choice over their behaviors, said Dr. Raju Hajela, former president of the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and chair of the ASAM committee on addiction’s new definition.”The disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions, which drive people to behave in ways that are not understandable to others around them,” Hajela said in a statement. “Simply put, addiction is not a choice. Addictive behaviors are a manifestation of the disease, not a cause.”

Publisher: Salient News