We Are Still Responsible For Our Addiction
More to Addiction than Substance Abuse, Group Says
By Kristina Fiore, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Published: August 16, 2011
Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that should be treated like any other chronic disease, according to a new definition from the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
In a public policy statement, the group emphasized that neurological mechanisms -- disruptions in neurotransmission, interruptions in the reward system, failure of inhibitory control -- are the key drivers of addiction.
"At its core, addiction isn't just a social problem or a moral problem or a criminal problem," ASAM past president Michael Miller, MD, said in a prepared release. "It's a brain problem whose behaviors manifest in all these other areas."
The statement describes addiction as a primary disease and not the result of other emotional or psychiatric problems. Addiction hijacks the brain's reward system, which involves areas of memory and emotion, and stifles areas of executive functioning, such as impulse control, the statement says.
And genetic factors account for half of the likelihood that a patient will develop addiction.
For those of us who’ve spent years of our lives battling addictions this confirms that we’re dealing with more than just bad behavior. I don’t think anyone grows up with the goal of being an addict, alcoholic or gambler.
This news will not have an immediate effect on how society and the justice system view addicts-or how they’re treated by the justice system. But it’s a step in helping the world to understand that substance abusers are as powerless as any other sick person when their disease is active.
Nor will there be an awakening among those who’ve long suffered at the hands of us addicts: namely family members and friends.
And it still doesn’t remove from those of us in recovery the responsibility of dealing with our disease. We are still responsible for our addiction. Probably the ultimate result of this pronouncement is that the world might look at substance abusers with a bit more tolerance and compassion.
John Schwary, Recovery Connections