“Addiction is about a lot more than people behaving badly,” says Dr. Michael M. Miller of the American Society for Addiction Medicine.
That’s true whether it involves drugs and alcohol or gambling and compulsive eating, the doctors group said Monday. And like other chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, treating addiction and preventing relapse is a long-term endeavor, the specialists concluded.
Addiction generally is described by its behavioral symptoms — the highs, the cravings, and the things people will do to achieve one and avoid the other. The new definition doesn’t disagree with the standard guide for diagnosis based on those symptoms.
But two decades of neuroscience have uncovered how addiction hijacks different parts of the brain, to explain what prompts those behaviors and why they can be so hard to overcome. The society’s policy statement, published on its Web site, isn’t a new direction as much as part of an effort to translate those findings to primary care doctors and the general public.
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