Addiction has now been defined as a chronic brain disorder according to The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM). The disorder was long believed to simply be a behavior problem that involved sex, drugs, alcohol or gambling, but the ASAM’s new definition states otherwise.
ASAM’s past president, Dr. Michael Miller, stated, “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. 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.”
ASAM decided that the term should be redefined as a brain disorder after seeing neuroscience advancements throughout the past two decades. The brain of an addict functions differently in that their impulse control is different. They also will seek their “reward” of choice regardless of whether or not it makes sense for them to do so. This sort of frustration is obviously something that many people have felt when in the presence of an addict.
Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine’s former president, Dr. Raju Hajela, said, “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. Because there is no pill which alone can cure addiction, choosing recovery over unhealthy behaviors is necessary.”
Fortunately, now that more information has been discovered about addiction, those affected may be able to get the proper help without feeling shame. Sadly, this chronic brain disorder affects several people and their families. It’s not easy to make the right choices but those are choices which must be made.