Addiction is the continued use of a substance (like drugs or alcohol) or a process (like gambling, sex, or love) despite negative consequences. Addictions are characterized by an change in tolerance where more of the substance or process is needed to produce the same effect and when unable to attain it withdrawal symptoms may be experienced. An addict may have tried to control their use, cut down or change their pattern but may have found it difficult to do so. It is also common that important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because the addiction consumes time, energy and other resources. If the person experiences difficulties due to their use of a substance or a process but have not yet experienced an increase in tolerance or withdrawal then their problem would fall under drug or alcohol abuse rather than addiction as differentiated by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual DSM-IV-TR.


The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has released a new definition of addiction that highlights “addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is refl ected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviours. Addiction is characterised by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioural control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviours and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death.”


To download the full definition of addiction visit Addiction Today, Addiction: Defined

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