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ASAM Releases New Definition of Addiction to Advance Greater Understanding of the Complex, Chronic Disease

by ASAM Staff | October 22, 2019

Incomplete Understanding of Addiction has Prevented an Adequate Response from the Medical Community, the Criminal Justice System and Policymakers in Addressing Prevention, Treatment, Remission, and Recovery and Reducing Overdose Deaths

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Rockville, MD – The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – the nation’s largest organization representing medical professionals who specialize in addiction prevention and treatment – has updated the society’s definition of addiction to explain more fully the complexity of this chronic disease with the intent of driving a bold and comprehensive national response that creates a future when addiction prevention, treatment, remission and recovery are accessible to all, and profoundly improve the health of all people.  The release of the updated definition of addiction coincides with National Addiction Treatment Week, which is recognized from October 21–27, 2019.

In commentary published in Medium, the president and vice president of ASAM, Drs. Paul Earley and Yngvild Olsen respectively, note the updated definition “underscores the complex interplay of unique biological, psychological, and environmental conditions that have a role in any one individual’s addiction.” Moreover, the two assert that a better understanding of addiction “… may lead us to bolder policy interventions that save and improve more lives. Ultimately, public perception and public policy must reflect this nuanced understanding if our nation is to recover.”

The updated definition reads:

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.

Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.

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asam magazine

ASAM Releases New Definition of Addiction to Advance Greater Understanding of the Complex, Chronic Disease

by ASAM Staff | Oct 22, 2019

Incomplete Understanding of Addiction has Prevented an Adequate Response from the Medical Community, the Criminal Justice System and Policymakers in Addressing Prevention, Treatment, Remission, and Recovery and Reducing Overdose Deaths

Download Release

Rockville, MD – The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) – the nation’s largest organization representing medical professionals who specialize in addiction prevention and treatment – has updated the society’s definition of addiction to explain more fully the complexity of this chronic disease with the intent of driving a bold and comprehensive national response that creates a future when addiction prevention, treatment, remission and recovery are accessible to all, and profoundly improve the health of all people.  The release of the updated definition of addiction coincides with National Addiction Treatment Week, which is recognized from October 21–27, 2019.

In commentary published in Medium, the president and vice president of ASAM, Drs. Paul Earley and Yngvild Olsen respectively, note the updated definition “underscores the complex interplay of unique biological, psychological, and environmental conditions that have a role in any one individual’s addiction.” Moreover, the two assert that a better understanding of addiction “… may lead us to bolder policy interventions that save and improve more lives. Ultimately, public perception and public policy must reflect this nuanced understanding if our nation is to recover.”

The updated definition reads:

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.

Prevention efforts and treatment approaches for addiction are generally as successful as those for other chronic diseases.

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MOC Guide

Considering a career in Addiction Medicine or expanding your practice services?

Physicians who have a primary ABMS board may apply to take the ABPM Addiction Medicine exam to become or continue to be an addiction medicine specialist. This specific pathway will expire in 2021. Download the NEW ASAM Information Guide on Certification and MOC.

Click here

New Resources

JAM Podcast

Journal of Addiction Medicine May/June 2019, Volume 13, Issue 3;

In episode thirteen of Addiction Medicine: Beyond the Abstract, we are joined by Dr. Jessica Gray. In her recent article, Dr. Gray discusses a case of a woman who was able to continue opioid agonist treatment during the postpartum period while she remained incarcerated, in a system that generally did not allow for opioid agonist treatment during incarceration except during pregnancy.

Click to listen

Drug court resources

Drug Court Resources

Tens of thousands of Americans access addiction pharmacotherapies through drug courts every year. New resources are now available. Created in partnership with the NADCP National Association of Drug Court Professionals.