Addiction redefined as brain disorder

Aug. 17, 2011 at 11:58 PM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- A U.S. group of doctors redefined addiction as a chronic brain disorder and not just a behavioral problem involving too much alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex.

Dr. Michael Miller, past president of American Society of Addiction Medicine, who oversaw development of the new definition, says this is the first time the organization of about 3,000 physicians who treat and prevent addiction has taken an official position that addiction is not solely related to problematic substance use.

"At its core, addiction isn't just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem," Miller said in a statement. "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."

People often see compulsive and damaging behaviors in friends, family members, public figures, celebrities or politicians and often focus only on the substance use or behaviors, but these outward behaviors are actually manifestations of an underlying disease in the brain.

The new definition describes addiction as a primary disease -- not the result of emotional or psychiatric problems -- and as a chronic disease that must be treated, managed and monitored over a lifetime like diabetes.

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