February 26th, 2020

ASAM’s New Definition of Addiction Better Explains a Complicated Disease

Why ASAM’s new addiction definition matters to patients and their familiesThe American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) issued a new addiction definition in October 2019. In 2011, the country’s largest group of medical professionals who specialize in addiction treatment and prevention began working on revising the definition of addiction. The process was complicated, but in the years since 2011, more people have begun to understand that addiction is “…a chronic, treatable brain disease with the possibility of remission and recovery.”

The new definition of addiction

Dr. Paul Earley and Dr. Yngvild Olsen discussed the new definition of addiction, noting that although the changes in perception that have occurred over the past decade are welcome, they are not enough. The updated description of addiction needs to “…fully address the biological, psychological and social factors that contribute to the development and perpetuation of this disease and has led to punitive approaches that often cause more harm than good.”  Here is the new definition.

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.

Why ASAM’s new addiction definition matters to patients and their families

The staff at Kolmac has long recognized the complexity of addiction and treated it as a chronic disease. However, many employers, government agencies and loved ones haven’t fully understood the condition. Hopefully, the new addiction definition will help advance the treatment and recovery options available to patients.

In addition, the country needs to use the new definition of addiction to develop better public policies that address prevention and treatment, instead of emphasizing punishment. According to Dr. Early and Dr. Olsen, “We have no evidence that a felony charge or time in a jail cell addresses the underlying disease, and the consequences of incarceration only add future pressures that make it more difficult to manage the illness. While breaking the law must be addressed judicially, incarceration is no more of a treatment for addiction than it is for diabetes or mental illness.”

Patients and their families who are looking for compassionate, measurement-based treatment that reflects the new understanding of addiction should contact us.

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