Definition of Addiction

Addiction is recognized as a disease by all of the nation’s leading medical and health associations. The nation's leading group of addiction experts, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, defines addiction as:

"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 reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors 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 read the long definition of addiction, including an extended list of signs and symptoms, visit the ASAM website.