New ASAM Definition of Addiction

Date: 
01/15/2020

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), the Nation’s largest organization representing medical professionals who specialize in addiction prevention and treatment, recently updated its definition of addiction:  

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.”

ASAM updated the definition of addiction because clear terminology in medicine plays a significant role in the effectiveness of communication between providers and patients when it comes to understanding risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment options.

Many prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction have been as successful as those for other chronic diseases. The release of the updated definition of addiction highlights the complex interplay of several biological, psychological, and environmental conditions or factors that all play a role in a person’s addiction. It also encourages the design of bolder policy interventions that save and improve the lives of individuals who struggle with addiction and reduces the stigma associated with addiction and substance abuse.